BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Ticker) -- T.J. Ford can celebrate his 20th birthday on Monday knowing that he's headed to the "Sweet 16" for the second straight year. And this time, it's at the Alamodome.
The sensational sophomore point guard scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half and added nine rebounds and eight assists to lead No. 1 seed Texas to a 77-67 victory over ninth seed Purdue in a spirited second-round South Region game.
The Longhorns (24-6) will play fifth seed Connecticut in the regional semifinals Friday at San Antonio.
"We talked about this being a (mini) tournament," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "Next week in San Antonio, it will be the same story. UConn and Calhoun will be a great challenge. This is the first time in school history that the school has gone to back-to-back 'Sweet 16s.'
"We told the guys that Ford's penetration would be the key to the second half and the win and it was."
Purdue (19-11) held Ford, perhaps the nation's quickest player, to just five points on 2-of-9 shooting in the first half. But the second half was a different story as Ford consistently broke down Purdue's defense with his penetration.
"I have to thank my teammates," Ford said. "They stepped up (in the first half) and picked up the slack. This is not a one-man team. Defense is the key and this was about two physical teams playing hard."
The 5-10 guard gave Texas the lead for good at 52-50 with 9:47 left, converting a three-point play on a drive to the basket. He added a pair of free throws 38 seconds later to increase the advantage to 54-50.
On Texas' next two possessions, Ford set up James Thomas for a dunk and hit a short jumper with 8:13 left, keeping the advantage at four.
Deginald Erskin benefited from Ford's penetration and converted a layup with 7:15 left to increase the lead to 62-57.
After Purdue pulled within 62-61 on a pair of free throws by Brandon McKnight and a tip-in by Ivan Kartelo, Ford set up Royal Ivey for a layup, hit 1-of-2 free throws and assisted on a jumper by Ivey to help Texas stay ahead, 69-65 with 2:32 left.
McKnight hit a jumper from the left corner with 2:16 remaining to help Purdue close within 69-67, but Texas scored the final eight points of the game.
Ford drew a foul on McKnight cutting to the basket and made both free throws with 1:59 left.
After Purdue's Chris Booker dribbled the ball out of bounds for a turnover, Ivey was fouled and converted both free throws with 1:17 remaining, increasing the lead to 73-67.
Purdue's Willie Deane was called for an offensive foul and Brandon Mouton made two free throws with 56 seconds left. Following another turnover by the Boilermakers, Ford was fouled and capped his day with a pair of free throws with 18.5 seconds left.
"We were real efficient down the stretch," Ford said. "Again, it starts with our defense. Everybody played great defense."
Ivey, known for his defensive play, frustrated Deane, especially in the second half, and finished with 14 points.
Purdue's leading scorer with an 18.3 average, Deane hit just 4-of-17 shots, missing all seven in the second half, and finished with 13 points - 12 in the first half.
"They did a great job of always having a guy on me whenever I received the ball," Deane said. "They were always putting pressure on mn."
"Basically, I just tried to take away easy baskets for him in transition and kept pressuring him," Ivey said.
Deane hit a controversial 3-point bank shot that appeared to come after the halftime buzzer, but was ruled good, giving Purdue a 31-30 lead.
"I was hoping it would give us the momentum to maintain the lead in the second half," Deane said.
Barnes protested that the shot came after the buzzer, but the play can only be reviewed at the end of the second half, not at the end of the first half. Purdue coach Gene Keady admitted his team received a huge break.
"Sometimes getting breaks, like the one we got at the end of the half with that 3-pointer, can hurt you," said Keady, who has never led Purdue to the Final Four in 17 NCAA Tournament appearances.
Ford made sure that controversial shot did not matter.
The game featured 12 lead changes and eight ties before Ford put the Longhorns ahead for good on his three-point play with 9:42 left.
Texas shot just 40 percent from the field, but Purdue was worse at 37 percent.
"They did a nice job of guarding our guys and we missed some shots," Keady said. "We couldn't get stops when we needed too. But if you look at the stat line for T.J. Ford, then you see that he's everything you hear he is."
The teams had met just two times previously and both were in the NCAA Tournament. This turned out to be the rubber game since Texas posted a 73-72 victory in a second-round game in 1990 and the Boilermakers returned the favor with a 58-54 win in a first-round game in 1999.