Purdue senior point guard Lewis Jackson scored 18 points Friday night against St. Mary's with lightning quick drives to the basket. He wore borrowed shoes.
Jackson's left foot was uncomfortable in his own shoes in the first half. Checking with teammates during a timeout, he discovered junior guard Dru Anthrop wears one shoe size smaller than Jackson. That was close enough. Donnie Hale, a freshman who is redshirting this season, was sent back to the locker room for Anthrop's spare sneakers.
Jackson changed into Anthrop's NIKE 2009 Hyperdunk hi-tops. Jackson scored 15 points in the second half, including seven of Purdue's final nine points and the two free throws that gave Purdue the lead for good with 22.8 seconds left in the game.
"I told him if he plays like that he can keep them," said Anthrop. "I've had them for a long time. It's probably the best hooping shoe that NIKE has ever made."
Anthrop's shoes may become Jackson's Cinderella slippers for Purdue's Sunday match up against highly favored and sixth-ranked Kansas (28-6).
"I'll probably go back with Dru's shoes," Jackson said Saturday while meeting with reporters in the Purdue locker room at CenturyLink Center. "I've got my other shoes that I've been playing with all season. But I'll probably go back with Dru's, just the way things happened (Friday) night."
The Boilermakers' (22-12) big concern against Kansas is just how big the Jayhawks are. Kansas starts 7-foot center Jeff Withey and 6'10" forward Thomas Robinson, the Big 12 Player of the Year.
"They have great bigs," said Purdue sophomore forward Travis Carroll, Purdue biggest starter at 6'9". "We just have to be physical, get them off the glass and play good defense on them. We have to have a buddy system and help each other out."
Carroll and 6-9 sophomore Sandi Marcius figure to play a more prominent role than usual.
"No question," said Purdue coach Matt Painter. "More than anything, they have to be solid and understand what we're going to do defensively. They have to do a good job boxing out and not allow those guys to get second chance opportunities."
Purdue did not fare well against teams in the Big Ten with good big men. The Boilermakers were 0-6 against Ohio State (Jared Sullinger), Indiana (Cody Zeller) and Michigan State (Draymond Green).
Kansas will have a huge crowd advantage in Omaha, about a three-and-a-half hour drive from the Jayhawks campus in Lawrence.
"It might turn into kind of a home game for them," said Purdue sophomore guard Terone Johnson. "We like playing against the odds. Quieting the crowd is something we look forward to doing."
Purdue is 2-2 all-time vs. Kansas. The schools have not played since 1997.