Let's be honest here. I started writing this at halfitme. Purdue was up 46-30 and it wasn't even close. This despite A.J. Hammons getting in some quick foul trouble and contributing zero points in the half. He played just 2:18 of basketball in that first half. Luckily for Purdue there were two things working in their favor: Isaac Haas is a more than capable backup and Rutgers is terrible. Seriously guys, how did they beat Wisconsin? Also, what color is that dress? How do you pronounce Isaac Haas? Are we really even here? Purdue shot 60% in the first half to go against Rutgers 33%. Unfortunately, Purdue found a way to make most of this post worthless and allowed Rutgers back into the game.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- Basil Smotherman gets the nod here for his all around great performance. Smotherman stepped in for the concussed Vince Edwards who didn't dress tonight. In the first half alone Smotherman had 11 points, three rebounds, and two assists. That's enough right there for a full game, but Smotherman wasn't nearly done. He continued to play great in the second half and finished with 17 points (his career high), five rebounds, three assists, three steals and zero turnovers and fouls. The guy just brings so much energy to the game. He's also good for at least one steal and easy layup each game. It's become almost his signature move. Raphael Davis gets honorable mention for a great performance of 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. That's two straight games with a double double.
While Purdue didn't play perfectly in the first half they sure were pretty close. In the first 2:26 of the game Purdue turned the ball over twice. I was getting flashbacks to earlier in the season when Purdue simply couldn't hold onto the ball. Over the final 17:34 Purdue turned it over just one more time. That's how you prevent an inferior opponent from clawing their way back into a game. In addition to shooting 60% from the floor Purdue shot 50% from three point range. That's quite an improvement from their Big Ten average of 28%. It makes it even more impressive when you consider there was no Vince Edwards, basically no A.J. Hammons, and a gassed Isaac Haas. Impressive first half all around. The leading scorers for that first half? Smotherman with 11 and Dakota Mathias with 8.
If you remember the Purdue vs. Rutgers game from a couple weeks ago you remember this script. Purdue pushed the lead up to 20 and then allowed Rutgers to slowly chip away. The lead got down to 10 with just under 6:00 to go and it looked like we had ourselves a ballgame. Six quick points for the good guys pushed the lead back to 16 and crushed the spirit of the visiting Scarlet Knights. Or so we thought. The JWMPOTG was again the catalyst stealing passes, jumping in passing lanes, getting easy layups, and just generally causing havoc. With Hammons and Haas both in foul trouble for the majority of the game and no Vince Edwards Purdue desperately needed a lift. Smotherman gave them that lift.
The one that thing makes you scratch your head is the offensive output from Rutgers. 85 points. The most Purdue had allowed any conference foe to score before tonight was 77 against Penn State in the OT game. Despite Purdue being up 20 in the second half Rutgers continued to hang around. After the six point surge to push the lead to 16 I thought the game was finished. Rutgers thought otherwise. With less than a minute to go Rutgers got the lead down to seven points. I'm not sure what happened to Purdue's defense. I think Purdue just got a little lackadaisical. They built the big lead and sort of took their foot off the gas. If this Purdue team wants to continue to improve they have to learn to not let people come back. Not everyone struggles like Rutgers does. This is how Purdue lost games to Illinois and Minnesota. It's something Purdue can't continue to let happen. The Rutgers press befuddled the Purdue offense. Turnover after turnover led to easy buckets for Rutgers. That's been a problem for Purdue all year. They wilt under pressure worse than George McFly. Luckily Purdue was playing Rutgers.
Rutgers just has so many holes in their roster. It's going to take them 3-4 years before they can even begin to compete on a serious level in this league. They are out of their depth at nearly every position on the floor every time they step onto the floor. With the win tonight Purdue moves to 11-4 in conference play and 19 wins overall. It also moves them one step closer to assuring themselves a spot in the Big Dance. Since this game was mostly a route, and not all that interesting, let's take a look at some of the stats and highlights from this one.
- A.J. Hammons scored his 1,000th point tonight. Kudos to him. Just 48 players in Purdue history have hit that mark.
- Matt Painter won his 100th Big/B1G game.
- With Michigan State losing tonight it keeps Purdue tied in second place in the conference with Maryland. If they can stay in the top four they get that coveted double bye in the B1G Tournament.
- Purdue shot 7-15 from three tonight. That's the percentage you'd like to see from this team. They don't need to rely on the three but it's definitely a weapon in their arsenal.
- Purdue had six players score in double figures. Isaac Haas was just two points away from being the seventh. The six guys were Smotherman, Hammons, Davis, Jon Octeus, Mathias, and Kendall Stephens.
- There were 50 fouls called in this game. 50 fouls. That's not a typo at all. There were 70 free throws attempted. That number would be higher were it not for the missed front end of some one and ones. Purdue really squandered some easy points by going just 23-36 from the line.