March 5, 2007
By Bob Nicholson
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - It was the perfect ending to a new beginning.
Carl Landry and David Teague - two of Purdue's three basketball seniors - made it clear Saturday afternoon in Mackey Arena before a near-capacity crowd of 13,847 fans how they wanted to be best remembered.
Teague completed his fourth season in the past five years, while it marked Landry's third year after coming to Purdue for the 2003-04 season.
Teague scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Landry posted another double-double to lead the Boilermakers past Northwestern 73-50, securing the fifth seed against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue enters tournament play with a 9-7 league mark, 20-10 overall.
The 20-victory season is Purdue's first since the 1999-2000 when the Boilermakers reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and marked the best Big Ten league mark since the 2002-03 campaign.
After finishing with nine victories last year, Purdue's 11-game turnaround from last year is the third-best among Division I teams.
In addition, the victory gave the Boilermakers their best all-time home record in the history of Mackey Arena, at 16-1. It is the 14th time Purdue lost only one game at home, and the 7-1 home conference record is the best since 2002-03.
"It meant a lot to me," said Landry, who scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with two blocked shots. "It was a personal goal that I set at the beginning of the season to win 20 games."
Landry and Teague, the Big Ten's second-best 1-2 scoring punch, both sat the 2005-06 season with injuries.
Landry and Teague were joined in Senior Day by reserve Chris Hartley, who also returned for his fifth-season after graduating in 2006. Hartley was redshirted his freshman season (2002-03).
"For the seniors, it is great to win more games this year than what we won combined in the last two years," Hartley said. "It is a start of a new era."
Teague moved up to the 32nd spot on Purdue's all-time scoring list with 1,100 career points. His six three-point baskets against the Wildcats gives him 233, just nine shy of the record 242 held by Jaraan Cornell (1997-2000).
"Just having a tough mindset and knowing that hard work pays off," Teague said about his regular-season performance. "I have heard that my whole life. That's what I try to live by; just to continue to work hard and fight through rough times.
"This is a good time and we have to enjoy this even though we have a lot of work to do. It is gratifying to know we made through some tough times."
Teague also credited Hartley as instrumental in his own way as contributor to the Boilermaker success.
"Chris gave so much heart and leadership," said Teague. "He does not get a lot credit for some of the things he does. Behind the scenes, he gets guys motivated and keeps them together on and off the court. He was always there providing advice for the younger guys. The type of sacrifices he made to be part of this season was phenomenal."
It was an emotional time for Teague as he watched Hartley dribble out the final seconds against Northwestern.
"Just a lot of good memories," Teague said. "I saw the clock run out so many times in the past when the game did not end up the way we wanted it to. It did my heart good knowing we are in better situation now. It is nice to finish on a high note and knowing we still have something to play for."
Landry has made strong case for Big Ten Player of Year honors, standing among the league leaders in scoring (second), field goal percentage (second), rebounding (fourth) and offensive rebounding (third).
"The team unity was a major factor," Landry said about the 2006-07 success. "Everybody was on the same page. I love this team so much, and I am glad just to be part of it.
"I'm just happy to play at this fine institution, playing with great teammates. If I call on them 30 years from now, they will be there for me, and I will be there for them. I am just happy to part of this team.
"I think we have a good chance in the Big Ten tournament and have a fair shot of winning it. Coach Keady was the first coach I played under, and he always talked about turning the program around. I am very fortunate to be a part of this program with great teammates.
"This is the year we turned it around, and hopefully we'll have successes in the future."