WEST LAFAYETTE - It is a birthday present Debrea Carter never will forget.
Her son, Purdue fifth-year senior graduate student guard Sterling Carter, couldn't be in his Seattle home on Friday, which also was Valentine's Day, to celebrate with his mother.
Sterling Carter, you see, was preparing to play Boilermaker rival Indiana for the first and possibly only time in his brief stay at Purdue after earning a bachelor's degree from Seattle University in the spring with one season of NCAA athletic eligibility remaining.
Carter sent the Purdue coaching staff a highlight film, knowing they needed a shooter. On Saturday afternoon, Carter not only gave his mother a present, but gave the Boilermakers a special gift with a Purdue career-best 19 points in an 82-64 victory against the Hoosiers.
Carter, who came into Saturday's game averaging 4.3 points, made 6 of 8 field goal attempts, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range, for those 19 pivotal points.
He scored the Boilermakers' first 10 second-half points in what became a 14-1 run that extended a 38-33 halftime lead to 52-34 with just more than 15 minutes remaining.
Not only did it snap Purdue's four-game losing streak against IU, but it is the Boilermakers' most lopsided victory against Tom Crean's team since a 74-55 triumph against the Hoosiers on March 3, 2010 in Mackey Arena.
The difference-maker was the little guard from Washington State.
"I'm not from here, but it meant a lot to my teammates," Carter said of his first taste of what it is like to play in a Purdue-IU game. "I felt it was my job to make sure we got this victory today, not only scoring but playing hard and playing with energy.
"Plus, Friday was my Mother's birthday, so I had to give her a birthday gift."
The gift certainly was special to all Purdue fans, who were grumbling about four consecutive losses to Indiana by an average margin of 23.3 points, including 97-60 last season in Mackey, the most lopsided ever for a Boilermaker team on Keady Court.
With primary threat A.J. Hammons in early foul trouble, the Boilermakers needed a replacement weapon, and Carter came to the rescue, helping Purdue to its best Big Ten offensive output seven days after scoring a season-low 49 in a 67-49 loss at Ohio State.
"I thought Sterling Carter was the difference in the game," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "His ability to knock down some shots for us, especially at the beginning of the second half, got us going. He did a fairly decent job on Yogi Ferrell. We played with more life, but it is easier to do that when you make more shots.
"With Sterling, I didn't want to start three small guards. Sterling has done the best job defensively of any of our guards, so he has kind of pried his way in there. But the difference is, he made shots. It just looks better. People say he has really stepped his game up. The difference is, he has made shots. Tonight, he knocked them down and really have us a boost."
In addition to Carter's shooting, Painter really liked the way Purdue began the second half when it pulled away.
"We were able to get a series of stops," Painter said. "Our ability to get stops and then get into transition was big for us."
Even IU coach Tom Crean was impressed with Carter.
"He played the way you would expect a fifth-year senior to play," said Crean, whose Hoosiers have lost three in a row since beating Michigan 63-52 on Feb. 2.
This defeat stings the Hoosiers the most, and it was inflicted in a big way by a small guard who, until this past summer, never had stepped foot in the state where basketball is king.
But thanks to his love for his mom, Sterling Carter now is well known among all Hoosiers, especially those whose loyalties are with the happy Boilermakers.