WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue coach Matt Painter can't wait to get back to Madison Square Garden.
Painter attended a tournament there as a middle school student and recalls being in awe. Now, he'll go back with his team after the Boilermakers (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) reached the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals with a 78-46 victory over Loyola of Chicago on Tuesday night.
Purdue's win gave it a second trip to New York City in four tries. Now, Painter will be able to share a bit of history with his team, which will face Boston College on Nov. 26.
"I think it's a great experience for our guys to be able to go to Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of basketball," Painter said. "There's so much tradition, just the great basketball that's been played there throughout the years. I talked to our players about that and how it would be a neat experience to go there and be able to compete there and represent Purdue."
Purdue's win was another important step for a program that went 9-19 in 2005-06. The Boilermakers have reached the second round of the NCAA tournament the past two years, and head to New York as the top seed.
Justin Cerasoli had 14 points for the Ramblers (1-2), who were coming off a 74-53 upset over Georgia on Monday but shot just 30 percent against the Boilermakers.
"You're going to play a team, regardless," Purdue guard Keaton Grant said. "Before [Monday's] game started, I thought Georgia was going to win just because of the name Georgia. When Loyola won, we focused on Loyola and came up with a victory."
J.R. Blount, who scored 42 points in Loyola's season opener, was held to three points on 0-for-6 shooting.
Purdue missed 10 of its first 15 shots, but controlled the first half with its defense until the offense got going. Grant made consecutive 3-pointers to give the Boilermakers a 25-9 lead.
"When shots don't fall, that's something we've talked about, can we beat really good teams when we don't shoot well, because that's going to happen," Painter said. "There's not been a team yet that went through the course of a season where you don't have a handful of games where the ball doesn't go in for you. Our staple is our defense. You have to reward yourself defensively."
Moore scored on a putback at the buzzer to give the Boilermakers a 40-14 halftime lead. Purdue nearly surrendered its lowest point total in a half in school history, but Cerasoli made a 3-pointer late in the half to help Loyola avoid the record low of 12 points. Loyola went nearly eight minutes without a field goal over one stretch.
Purdue shot 50 percent in the first half and held Loyola to 20 percent shooting. The Boilermakers forced 15 turnovers and committed just four in the first 20 minutes.
The Boilermakers doubled the score, 56-28, midway through the second half on a basket by Nemanja Calasan. Purdue's largest lead was 35 points.
Grant had 11 points, five assists and five rebounds, and Calasan scored 11 points.
Grant said the players see the big-picture aspect of the trip to New York. They believe it will help a squad with aspirations of playing deep into March.
"An early season tournament will help us prepare for down the line," he said. "Playing different teams with different styles from the Big Ten schools will definitely be beneficial for our team."