Purdue center A.J. Hammons absolutely went off in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday. the 7-footer scored 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting, grabbed 12 boards, had one assist, one steal and even hit two threes in a 72-59 win at Pitt.
The most impressive part? Hammons did it all off the bench.
“Yeah, early on, I was hitting a couple shots to get me going,” Hammons said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I had to come out in the second half and step it up for our team.”
No. 11 Purdue led just 29-26 at halftime but pulled away in the second half, outscoring Pitt 43-33. Hammond and reserve guard Ryan Cline, who hit four three-pointers, played pivotal roles in the win, as Purdue’s bench outscored its starters 44-28.
“The atmosphere here was just crazy, but we had to just stick together,” Hammons said. “At halftime one of our senior leaders, Ray (Davis), he just came together and just told us we had to step it up. We had a couple young guys step it up for us in the second half. Ryan Cline came out and hit four big threes. So really, we just got to keep working. We’ve got a long (way) to go. We’re a strong group. We’ll just keep playing hard.”
Purdue, which has four players between 6-9 and 7-2, out-rebounded Pitt, 40-35, and held the Panthers to 35.1 percent shooting from the floor and 21.1 percent from three.
“We just had to slow it down and make them play our game,” Hammons said. “Our point guard, P.J. Thompson, he really came out and gave us big minutes, just being in the passing lanes, got a couple steals, pressuring the ball. Ryan Cline and his four big threes for us (were big). I’m just very proud of him and PJ.”
Purdue (7-0) has now won seven straight games in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and appears to be a legitimate contender to reach the Final Four.
“We’re really just worried about the Big Ten right now,” Hammons said. “After that, we’re going for it.”