Tonight was one of those games that was ugly from start to finish for both teams. Purdue had about a 4-5 minute stretch in the second half where they actually pulled away, but other than that short span it wasn't a pretty game. Just how bad was this game? Well, in the first half Rutgers went the final 12:38 without scoring a field goal. That's unheard of. Want to make that stat worse? Somehow Purdue was only up by 13 points at half. It was mind boggling. The lack of ball discipline reared its ugly head once again. Of course, it's not like that helped Rutgers that much as they couldn't covert on the Purdue turnovers. It doesn't really matter though because a win is a win.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- A.J. Hammons wins this yet again. Hammons has found the switch to change his game and it's currently stuck in the on position. He ended up with 17 pts, seven rebounds, four blocks, two assists, three steals, and just one turnover. That's how you stuff a stat sheet. The transformation from the start of the season to B1G season has been incredible for the big man. He's really showing what he's capable of when he's focused.
A work of art this was not. There were 26 turnovers combined. The two teams shot a combined 39-106 from the floor. Rutgers was 9-19 from the free throw line. Purdue was 3-15 from three point land. Rutgers airballed two layups. Two. Layups. It was just that sort of game. I maintain what I said earlier in the week about this Rutgers team. It's possible that in 100 years people will still be trying to figure out how they beat Wisconsin earlier this season. I know there were injuries with Wisconsin, but man Rutgers is just bad. Rutgers did outrebound the Boilers to the tune of 42-36. Other than that not much went right for Rutgers tonight. It's rough moving into a big boy conference.
There's not really much to say about this game. Sometimes you have to win ugly and that's exactly what Purdue did tonight. It was a game that Purdue had to have if they want any chance of staying in the conference race and, more importantly, the NCAA Tournament discussion. While this isn't a game that's going to vault Purdue's RPI it's certainly one that would've hurt them had they lost. This is the very definition of avoiding a bad loss. Let's take a look at some quick stats before we close out tonight.
- Basil Smotherman continues to impress after his Iowa resurgence. While the stat sheet isn't exploding his defense has really picked up. He's been good for at least one steal and easy bucket each game since Iowa.
- Kadeem Jack from Rutgers went an awful 3-9 from the free throw line. Rutgers as a team went 9-19. Quite a few of those misses were the front end of one and ones. It really prevented Rutgers from getting back in the game.
- In the second half Purdue went up by as much as 20 then, as usual, allowed Rutgers back into the game. Late in the second half Rutgers actually cut the lead down to nine points. Extremely lucky for Purdue that Rutgers is terrible.
- The JWMPOTG went an impressive 6-10 from the floor. His shooting percentage in conference play is over 60%. Hard to argue with figures like that.
- Kendall Stephens still doesn't seem all there. He went 1-4 from three and committed three turnovers with a couple being due to lazy passing/ball control. Stephens seems to be good for at least one of these a game lately. I can't imagine the finger is impacting him this much but I'm at a loss for what else it could be.
Purdue now sits at 16-9 (8-4) with six games left. It sure seems like Purdue needs to hold serve at home (Nebraska, Rutgers, and Illinois) and steal one on the road (IU, Ohio State, and Michigan State) in order to guarantee a tournament spot. It's going to be tough to steal one of those road games but if Purdue plays like they are capable of it's not out of the realm of possibility. I'm just thrilled that Purdue is in this spot after that terrible midseason slump. Let's enjoy the ride. Purdue next faces Nebraska on Sunday in Mackey Arena. I'll be in attendance. Let's hope for another victory.