WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Having lost its three most recent games leading into Christmas break, Purdue was greeted in its first post-holiday practice by a routine of painful wall sits, mixed with sprints to the opposite baseline.
The drills hammered home coach Matt Painter's message that losing is not acceptable, and the Boilermakers rallied from an 11-point, second-half deficit Wednesday to defeat Minnesota 72-68 in the Big Ten opener for each team.
"We grew up," said Rapheal Davis, who scored 18 points including Purdue's final four. "We stayed in it and kept everyone's spirits high. We became a better team today. We were up, and I saw our young guys grow up during that game. We focused, settled down and good things happened for us.
"I can't speak for the other guys, but coming into crunch time, I was thinking about the wall sits we were doing the other day in practice. It was a big win."
"This experience was really big for us. Coach kind of addressed the whole aspect of looking cool and playing cool in practice. He set us up to be successful at the end, and it really paid off," said Stephens, who scored 16 second-half points, making 6 of 10 field-goal attempts during the pivotal final 20 minutes.
Painter indicated practices will continue to include wall sits and sprints.
"We have to learn to get in a defensive stance," Painter said, "and those kinds of things in practice help with that."
Davis made two free throws with 19 seconds left and then a dunk with 3.8 remaining. Davis was 10 of 10 from the foul line. His two free throws with 2:15 left gave Purdue (9-5) the lead for good, 64-62.
"When Stephens hit those three's, that really got the building alive," Pitino said. "That was the first time, really, where that building kind of took over a little bit. I thought we had controlled the crowd in the first half."
Vince Edwards made two free throws with 4:56 left to give the Boilermakers a 60-58 lead, their first since it was 4-2. Raphael Davis' dunk off a steal extended the lead to 62-58. Minnesota scored the next four to tie it at 62.
Isaac Haas' putback and Stephens' 3-pointer had pulled Purdue to within 56-53 with 6:55 to play, prompting a Minnesota timeout. Stephens tied it at 56 with a 3-pointer at the 6:07 mark, but Maurice Walker pushed Minnesota ahead seconds later. Haas made two free throws at the 5:28 mark to tie it again at 58.Purdue got within 48-42, but Mathieu's 3-pointer made it 51-42. Carlos Morris scored with 9:36 left to give the Golden Gophers a 55-44 advantage.