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HomeSportsPurdue basketball celebrates a long-awaited victory and soars to new heights

Purdue basketball celebrates a long-awaited victory and soars to new heights

DETROIT – Zach Edey laid out a brown blanket on his lap in the aisle seat on the right, with Lance Jones carefully placing the Midwest Regional trophy next to him. The flight attendant praised Purdue for their 72-66 win over Tennessee in the Elite Eight. The plane took off and landed 52 minutes later, right in the middle of catharsis.

Purdue is set to face NC State in its first Final Four since 1980 on Saturday, finally giving a reason for celebration to a program long haunted by failures. Students left Harry’s Chocolate Shop, a bar at the heart of the matter, while families packed up their children like they were going to a parade. The small airport parking lot in West Lafayette, Ind., was jammed to capacity, with late arrivals leaving their cars on the grass and police coming to restore order.

As the Boilermakers arrived, fans lined the road from the gates to the tarmac on both sides, with hundreds of them creating a delirious atmosphere. The players gathered their bags, waiting for their ride on the tarmac, resembling actors waiting in the wings before taking the stage. The Boilermaker Special, Purdue University’s official mascot, a Victorian-era locomotive replica on a pickup truck, picked up the team members one by one. The players embarked on the Special, with Edey carrying the net around his neck and Gillis lifting the trophy over his head. With three honks, the Boilermakers passed through the ecstatic crowd and headed towards the national semifinal.

“That was so cool,” a young girl exclaimed to her father. “You’re only 7,” he replied. “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for that?”

Matt Painter sat on a dais at the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional, with his top-seeded Boilermakers set to play Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 the next day. Despite his excitement for the game, Painter was once again confronted with his failures, a list of painful upsets that haunt Purdue fans. “The game doesn’t always love you back,” Painter remarked.

Painter’s tenure at Purdue has been marked by some notable failures, but also by consistent success. His dedication to the game and the program has been unwavering, even in the face of disappointment and setbacks. As the pressure mounts, Painter remains focused on the task at hand, steering his team towards success on the basketball court.


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