Baylor 73, Purdue 72

Friday, December 31st 2004, 6:58 am

By: News On 6

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) _ Brandon McKnight's nightmare game against Baylor could not have ended any worse. That's why he can't wait to get back on the court.

Purdue was trailing when Bryant Dillon hit a 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left to tie the game at 72 Thursday night.

But McKnight didn't realize the game was tied and intentionally fouled Baylor's Aaron Bruce to stop the clock.

Bruce then made one of his two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to lift the Bears (6-3) to their fourth straight win, 73-72.

``You figure out what happened, then you think, 'Oh man, I know this is not happening to me,''' said McKnight, who shot 2-for-11 and had three assists. ``But it happens to the best of them. I just have to bounce it off me. I thank God we have a game Sunday.''

The Boilermakers (3-6) play Eastern Illinois on Sunday, but it will be hard to shrug this loss off.

Carl Landry scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Purdue, which was looking for its first three-game winning streak in almost a year. The last time the Boilermakers won three games in a row was Jan. 25.

That it was McKnight, a senior and Purdue's most experienced player, who made the critical error came as a shock to coach Gene Keady. The coach could only offer his support to one of the team's most important players.

``He has to keep his head up,'' a terse Keady said. ``He made an error in judgment. There's no use chewing him out. He feels bad enough himself.''

Coming into the game, Baylor was 1-12 in its last 13 games on an opponent's home floor, including a 77-43 drubbing at the hands of SMU on Dec. 16.

Coach Scott Drew, who spent 10 seasons at Valparaiso, including one as head coach, before coming to Baylor last year, said he didn't need to educate his players on playing in Mackey Arena.

``All I had to do was point to SMU,'' Drew said. ``They were there. They all felt that pain.''

So the Bears strolled into Mackey Arena with their six scholarship players and scratched out a win.

They outrebounded the bigger, more physical Purdue front 37-33 and came up with the big shots down the stretch.

Tim Bush, who had two career-highs with 23 points and 11 rebounds, hit two huge 3-pointers to lead four players in double figures, including Patrick Fields (18) and Bruce (17).

``It was really nerve-racking for me. I was like, 'I can't believe I'm playing at Purdue in front of a legendary coach,''' Bush said. ``It was tough, but it was nice. I loved it.''

Tommy Swanson scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, including a four-point play and a thunderous tip-dunk during an 11-3 run to give the Bears a 67-63 lead.

``Different people got hot at different times,'' Drew said.

Baylor heads home for a game against Chicago State before a brutal opening to the Big 12 season at Texas and home against Oklahoma.

For McKnight and the Boilermakers, Sunday's game against Eastern Illinois can't come soon enough.

``That's the best way to look at it right now,'' McKnight said. ``I don't see any other way to look at it. I took Carl's shine away and Bryant's shine away. But I'll make up for it Sunday.''

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