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Dec. 20, 1997

Purdue Holds on for 86-84 Victory

Game Stats

INDIANAPOLIS - Brian Cardinal had a go-ahead layup with 1:24 remaining and added a free throw with 27 seconds left, helping seventh-ranked Purdue hold off a furious second-half comeback by 10th-ranked Xavier, 86-84.

cardinal
Brian Cardinal.

The non-conference battle of top 10 teams saw Purdue squander a 20-point lead before recovering and rallying in the final seven minutes for its fourth straight victory. Xavier missed a potential tying shot in the waning seconds and has lost two of three after opening the season with five straight victories.

"This was like an NCAA (Tournament) game," Purdue coach Gene Keady said. "It was a great atmosphere out there tonight. I can't say enough about our fans and the support they showed us."

Jaraan Cornell scored 20 of his career-high 28 points in the first half and Chad Austin added 25 for the Boilermakers, who opened a 54-34 lead on a foul shot by Austin with 19:10 remaining.

"(Cornell) has had studying on his mind and has not been focused on basketball," Keady said. "That's OK. We really want our kids to stay focused in the classroom, obviously. Tonight he did an excellent job of carrying us in the first half. He hit some big shots."

But Darnell Williams ingited the Musketeers with 11 points in a 35-12 run. Xavier took a 69-66 lead on Williams' basket with 6:49 remaining.

"We are bitterly disappointed that we didn't play well in the first half," Xavier coach Skip Prosser. "The second half we played with a little more poise and that sparked us. For Xavier to play this game, it's a big step forward for our program."

Purdue (9-2) took an 83-79 lead on Cornell's eight-footer with 2:17 left, before Xavier grabbed its last lead at 84-83 when Pat Kelsey hit the first of two foul shots with 1:43 left.

The Musketeers (6-2) had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but Lenny Brown's jumper went in and out with four seconds to go. Cardinal, who contributed 10 points, batted the rebound out towards midcourt and the clock expired.

"(Xavier) was relentless," Keady said. "I really like the way they play. They have excellent balance and they kind of mirror us."

Williams led Xavier with 24 points, while Brown added 16 and James Posey 15.

Purdue center Brad Miller, who returned to the lineup after missing last weekend's Boilermaker Invitational with a bruised elbow, scored nine points before fouling out with nine minutes remaining.

"Now all we have to do is get some guys to stay eligible," Keady said. "we're getting better. Tonight we found a way to win. We didn't finish against North Carolina (a 73-69 loss in November), but tonight we had good focus."

Saturday's game was the first between Purdue and Xavier in 18 years and the first time Boilermakers coach Gene Keady faced the Musketeers. Purdue increased its lead in the series to 7-1.

"I'm disappointed that when we got the lead, we didn't close it out," Prosser said. "In the first half, our halfcourt offense led to bad halfcourt defense. To beat Purdue, you have to play more than 25 minutes."