After being thrashed 76-60 by Duke in the 2008 Challenge, the Boilermakers were 2-6, including 1-3 under coach Matt Painter. But as if they collectively said, "Never again," after being taken to the woodshed by the 2008-2009 Duke team that included Kyle Singler, Purdue has been the Big Ten Conference's shining light.
Including Wednesday night's 88-67 trouncing of Boston College in front of an energized Mackey Arena crowd, Purdue has extended its ACC/Big Ten Challenge winning streak to five, also beating Wake Forest in 2009, Virginia Tech in 2010, Miami (Fla.) in 2011 and Clemson in 2012.
Thanks to Purdue's dominating victory against Boston College, the Big Ten salvaged a 6-6 tie with the ACC this year. It's no coincidence that before Purdue began this five-game winning streak, the ACC won the first 10 challenges. The Big Ten is 3-0-2 in the past five made-for-TV showdowns between these two power conferences that take their basketball quite seriously.
In improving their season record to 7-2, the Boilermakers got a game-best 18 points from senior guard Terone Johnson, who joins a select group of Purdue players who never have lost an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game in their four seasons of college competition.
It's an achievement for which Johnson is proud. "It's very important, not just to us but to the conference," Johnson said. "In each one of these since my freshman year, we have said that we have to do our part in order to win the Challenge. We felt like we did our part."
Purdue, which was beaten by 40 points at Florida State in 2005 in Painter's first year as the Boilermakers' head coach, has finally pushed its head above water in this event at 7-6.
"Everyone is trying to win, especially when the ACC had won 10 straight challenges," Painter said. "You feel guilty when you can't do your part. The fact that we have been able to win the past five is a pride thing.
"We told our team we were down 2-4 after Tuesday night, and I told them that Wisconsin won on the road (earlier Wednesday) so we have to hold serve and try to help our league out. I said we wanted to at least tie it or win by one. Our guys took that to heart. Obviously, they also realized that we needed a win and wanted to do a good job representing our league."
Which Purdue certainly did in its most complete performance of the season, using a 19-3 first-half run to essentially place this game in the victory column.
The Boilermakers shot 52.2 percent from the field, got a combined 15 points and 16 rebounds from big men A.J. Hammons and Jay Simpson and were guilty of only eight turnovers. And oh yes, Purdue actually out rebounded this opponent 39-37.
Along with Iowa and Minnesota on Tuesday night, and Wisconsin, Ohio State and Nebraska on Wednesday night, old reliable Purdue denied the ACC bragging rights for a fifth consecutive year, in which the Boilermakers are a collective 5-0.
Not bad for a program that at 2-6 once was the doormat for the Big Ten in its Challenge with the ACC.