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MICHAEL CONROY/AP

CHICAGO, Ill. — After a quarter of a century in West Lafayette, Ind. the illustrious coaching career of Gene Keady officially came to an end Thursday at the United Center, as his Boilermakers fell to Iowa 72-52 in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament.

With a final resume boasting of six Big Ten titles, 18 trips to the Big Dance and six National Coach of the Year awards, the question on everyone’s minds is what will Keady do now?

“Go home and do what my wife tells me,” the coach joked.

“I’ve had to be some place, ever since the first grade — think about it,” Keady continued. “I don’t have to be any place tomorrow, so I’m gonna be an E.B. I’ll be an errand boy.”

The sendoff proved a slovenly affair for the Boilermakers, who committed 16 turnovers on the afternoon and shot just 8-for-16 from the charity stripe. In a finale befitting Purdue’s disappointing 2004-05 campaign, the frequent miscues translated to 21 points off turnovers for the seventh-seeded Hawkeyes.

“It’s just frustrating,” Purdue guard David Teague said. “It’s been a long, tough season.”

Iowa forward Adam Haluska served up the performance of the game, shooting 6-for-12 from the field — including three from behind the arc — to lead all scorers with 17 points. Junior one-guard Jeff Horner pitched in another 16, while dishing out eight assists and grabbing six boards.

“To know that [Keady] played his last game against us, I think that’s something that we’ll remember forever,” Horner said after the game.

Entering halftime trailing 33-23, Purdue suffered a full-court breakdown in the second period, allowing the Hawkeyes to widen the margin to 25 points with 4:17 remaining in the game. The Boilermakers managed to cut the lead to 19 in the home stretch but couldn’t overcome the massive deficit compiled during a second-half scoring spree by the Hawkeye frontcourt.

“It was kind of like a mercy killing,” Keady said. “‘Pull the plugs boys, let’s get out of here.'”

Despite the trials and tribulations endured in recent seasons, Keady will walk away from the Boilermakers with a 543-268 career record and a place in the annals of college basketball history.

“I just feel for him that his last year had to end the way it did,” Iowa head coach Steve Alford said. “I know that he can walk away, right now, and feel satisfied that he had a phenomenal career.”

Battle of the lambs: The No. 8-seeded Northwestern Wildcats earned the right to face conference champion Illinois with a 58-56 win over Michigan Thursday afternoon. Taking advantage of 19 Michigan turnovers, the Wildcats overcame a 25-point performance by sophomore center Courtney Sims to advance to the quarterfinals.

After winning the NIT Tournament in 2004, Michigan seemed a strong candidate to claim an NCAA berth for this year’s Big Dance. Yet, a rash of midseason injuries and the legal troubles of point guard Daniel Horton launched the downward spiral, culminating in the probable season-ending defeat at the hands of the Wildcats.

“It has been a tough year for all of us,” Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker said. “But I think that these kids have shown the kind of heart and character they have, by the way they kept fighting.”

Trailing by as many as 10 midway through the second half, the Wolverines siphoned the Northwestern lead down to a single point after mounting a 10-2 run in the final five minutes of play. An intentional foul call with eight seconds left on the clock, however, put the Wolverine’s comeback hopes on ice as Northwestern rode the charity stripe to a first-round victory.