Kramer takes over to lead Purdue to sixth Sweet 16 in 12 appearances

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Chris Kramer ignored his coach's final play call and demanded the ball with Purdue's season on the line.

The two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, the rugged soul of Boilermakers basketball with do-it-all leader Robbie Hummel out for the season, forgot he is just 6-foot-3. Or, he didn't care.

The bull in a basketball uniform plowed past one defender 4 inches taller than him and flipped in a layup over Texas A&M big man Bryan Davis, who is 6 inches taller, with 4.2 seconds remaining in overtime Sunday. That sent the fourth-seeded Boilermakers into the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament with a 63-61 victory over the devastated Aggies.

"I had the ball and went right and crossed over to the left, and it parted like the Red Sea," Kramer said of A&M's defense.

The bruising, second-round game just about left dents in the arena's floor.

The ending left Kramer pounding his massive chest. Then, delirious teammates pummeled him from front and back near midcourt.

Kramer's kind of day.

"Bodies were clashing, both teams refused to lose," he said. "And it came down to one play."

B.J. Holmes got a final chance to win it for fifth-seeded Texas A&M with a frantic 3-point try from in front of his bench at the buzzer, but it hit short on the rim to ensure a sixth regional appearance in 12 NCAA tournaments dating to 1994 for Purdue (29-5).

The Boilermakers rallied from 11 points down in the second half and will face top-seeded Duke in Houston on Friday. Hummel has already promised he will be there.

This all seemed like a pipe dream a month ago, when the Big Ten regular season co-champions, former top-seed candidate and trendy pick for the Final Four in its home state lost Hummel to a knee injury. Even President Barack Obama thought the Boilermakers wouldn't get out of the first round.

They all overlooked the square-jawed, football-sized Kramer. He led the Boilermakers with 17 points, seven rebounds -- and countless dives to the floor for loose balls.

"A lot of people are saying, 'Great accomplishment, you made the Sweet 16 without Robbie,' but the coach keeps saying you've got to keep dreaming," Kramer said of Matt Painter. "You've got to want more, and you can never be satisfied."

After Holmes' last miss, he stayed slumped on the court with his head bowed under his Aggies maroon jersey for more than a minute. Teammates ushered the inconsolable Davis away.

Holmes declined to answer questions in the locker room, his jersey still over his bowed head.

"It took an unbelievably tough team to beat us. Purdue is TOUGH," said choked-up coach Mark Turgeon, one of the few Aggies in any condition to speak. "This one really stings."

Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Aggies (24-10), who were denied their second regional semifinal in four years.

This chance was unlikely for A&M at Christmas, the day senior leader and defensive whiz Derrick Roland was flying home from a loss at Washington with a likely career-ending broken leg.

Roland was alone in the tunnel off the court after Sunday's game, sitting in a chair and sobbing.

Regulation was like rugby. Bodies were strewn across the floor, when they weren't interlocked with each other.

It ended with Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, who awakened from an 0-for-7 start to score 11 points in the comeback, blocking Donald Sloan under the basket with 31 seconds left. E'Twaun Moore was then stripped of the ball by Dash Harris. The Aggies inbounded with 1.1 seconds left, but Holmes' off-balance heave from in front of his bench banged off the glass to give this tournament its fourth overtime game.

The extra period had three ties, with the relentless Aggies taking two-point leads and the unyielding Boilermakers answering each time.

Kramer tried to give his team the lead with under 2 minutes left in overtime with a shot over two Aggies in the lane. He missed that time and lost his sneaker -- of course, he ran down to play defense without it. But freshman Khris Middleton put A&M back up with a jump hook from the baseline with 1:20 remaining.

Moore answered with a jumper with 1 minute to go to make it 61-all. Those were the last of his 15 points.

Then, Davis backed in on the 6-10 Johnson, went under him to the basket, but was short against the rim on his bank shot with 17 seconds left.

Purdue got the rebound and called a timeout with 10.1 seconds remaining. Painter called for a play for Moore, but Kramer never gave up the ball once he got it back off his inbounds pass from halfcourt to Keaton Grant.

From the top of the key, Kramer switched hands on his dribble, then drove past 6-7 Nathan Walkup and approached the 6-9 Davis. The shot soared over the leaping Davis' finger tips, off the glass and in.

"I didn't even really expect him to get the ball," Davis said. "I almost got there to get a hand on it. But he made a tough shot, to his credit, and won the game."