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Purdue's Miller Grows Up

March 14, 1997|From Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Brad Miller and the Seven Dwarfs took their time--actually, their overtime--about it, but they managed to get a date with No. 1 Kansas.

Miller, Purdue's junior center, scored 31 points, grabbed eight rebounds, led a charge from a 14-point first-half deficit and regained some respect in the Boilermakers' 83-76 victory over Rhode Island in the first round of the NCAA Southeast Regional here Thursday.

That put eighth-seeded Purdue (18-11) into a Saturday game against the Jayhawks, who had no trouble advancing against last-seeded Jackson State, 78-64.

Miller started the season surrounded by seven freshmen and, rather than raising their games, lowered his.

"I felt I was letting a lot of people down because I would have one good game and one bad game," he said. "I wanted to step up and be a leader on the court instead of being a nuisance to everyone on the court."

He did just that Thursday, when he made more free throws, 15 of 21, than Rhode Island tried, nine of 12. He also helped contain Michael Andersen, the Rams' seven-foot center, who had 18 points, but only one in overtime.

Miller scored all of Purdue's points in a 7-2 run to open the second half, and one of those Purdue freshmen, Brian Cardinal, made a three-point basket with 16 seconds to close it. Cardinal then made the first basket of the extra period to put the Boilermakers ahead to stay.

The Rams (20-9), who believed their four seniors would be the difference in the game, had their chances to win in regulation. But they didn't call time out after Cardinal's three-pointer and went quickly downcourt, where Tyson Wheeler's shot bounced off the rim and Andersen missed the follow before the buzzer.

Rhode Island never got started in the extra period, missing its first five shots.

Cardinal, who has also had a redshirt year, finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Chad Austin and Mike Robinson had 15 each.

But the key was Miller, who had showed that he had spent the season maturing when he scored 27 points against Illinois last week.

"It seems like the last few weeks he's really grown up a lot," Purdue Coach Gene Keady said. "That's good to see. He's starting to read books you buy in airports and understand there's life besides being a teenager."

Kansas 78, Jackson St. 64--The Tigers (14-16) couldn't deal with Raef LaFrentz, the Big 12's player of the year, who had 18 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. And they couldn't deal with Scot Pollard, who had 12 points, 19 rebounds and six blocks for Kansas (33-1).

Rounding things out, the other front-line Jayhawk, Paul Pierce, who is 6-8, had 19 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.

"Every time we caught the ball around the basket, they were so big they altered our shots so much," said Tiger Coach Andy Stoglin, who has only one player taller than 6-9. "Their size affected us rebound-wise and around the basket."

Jackson State made enough outside shots to keep it interesting--Trent Pulliam's 28 points included eight three-pointers, five of them in the final four minutes--but Kansas used a 16-0 second-half run to put the game away.

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