INDIANAPOLIS -- When Tubby Smith throws superlatives around, he means it.
Minnesota's coach won a national championship at Kentucky and has 450 career victories, yet no half of basketball he has coached in 18 years could top what his Golden Gophers did to Purdue on Saturday. Minnesota held the Boilermakers (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) to the worst first half in Purdue's record books and rolled to a 69-42 victory in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Minnesota led 37-11 at the break and by as many as 34 points in the second half.
"I thought it was a very impressive and dominating performance," Smith said. "It's as good a half as I think I've been a part of as a coach."
Purdue coach Matt Painter often says basketball is a game of runs. By the time his team made one, it was digging its way out of a 28-point hole early in the second half. It was the fewest points by Purdue in a half since the school started keeping track in 1950. Only a late layup by Patrick Bade allowed the Boilermakers (27-5) to avoid the worst defeat ever in a Big Ten tournament game.
"With everything on the line, I thought it was going to be a great college basketball game, and obviously it wasn't," Painter said. "The game of basketball will humble you. Today, we were obviously humbled."
Ralph Sampson III scored 13 points for the sixth-seeded Golden Gophers (21-12), who reached the final for the first time. Colton Iverson scored 11 points and Devoe Joseph added 10 as Minnesota won its fourth straight and seventh of nine.
The Golden Gophers will play Ohio State (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) on Sunday for the championship. The Buckeyes defeated Illinois 88-81 in double overtime Saturday.
Minnesota beat No. 11 Michigan State in the quarterfinals, and the Golden Gophers don't see why they can't knock off another ranked team.
"I feel we can compete with any team in the country and I feel we can compete with any team in the Big Ten," Sampson said. "We've proven it in this tournament right now."
Purdue beat Minnesota twice in the regular season. The Boilermakers had won 13 of 14 and avenged their only loss during that stretch Friday against Northwestern.
They ran into a confident Minnesota team that Painter believes should be in the NCAAs. Experts had Minnesota needing to win some games in the conference tourney to get in.
"Hopefully that victory got Minnesota into the NCAA tournament," Painter said. "They got a great team and I think they're going to do a great job in the NCAA tournament."
The Boilermakers entered the game talking about possibly earning a No. 1 seed.
"Basically, none of that is in our hands," Purdue guard Chris Kramer said. "Everything with seeding and where we're going to go is in the selection committee's hands. Whatever they put us, whatever seed we have, we just have to take that, and then come out and lay it on the line."
Johnson shot 7-for-16 from the field, but his teammates were 9-for-42. The Boilermakers couldn't even score with no one guarding them, making just 8 of 18 free throws.
The Golden Gophers shot 48 percent from the field and outrebounded the Boilermakers 50-26.
Minnesota started the game with a 9-2 run. After a bank shot by Kramer, the Golden Gophers went on a 17-0 spurt to take a 26-4 lead. E'Twaun Moore missed his first eight shots, but finally scored to end Minnesota's run. Purdue went more than 11 minutes without scoring.
The Boilermakers barely reached double figures in the first half, getting there on a basket by Johnson.
Minnesota shot 61.5 percent in the first half and held Purdue to 5-for-27 shooting. Eight different Gophers joined in the fun by scoring before halftime, while only three Purdue players scored.
Moore, who tied a career high with 28 points in the quarterfinals against Northwestern, shot 1-for-12 in the first half. He hurt his left ankle on a drive with 18:21 left in the second half and was ineffective when he returned with 12:41 to play. He said he was fine after the game.
As the game approached the final seven minutes, Minnesota turned it into a dunk-off. First Sampson, then Devron Bostick threw down two-handed power jams to give the Gophers a 58-28 lead.
Lewis Jackson, Purdue's starting point guard, left the game with 6:21 remaining and was helped off the court, unable to put much pressure on his left leg. He was in a walking boot after the game.
"We simply didn't have anything in our tanks today, and obviously, Minnesota did," Painter said.
Minnesota will be playing its fourth game in four days, but the Golden Gophers aren't worried about being tired.
"It's all about mental preparation," Smith said. "It's a championship game. The adrenaline will be high. Your intensity level will be high."