After the toughest stretch of the season Purdue comes home for what should (on paper) a nice, easy Big Ten home win. Rutgers is better this year. Steve Pikiell has them playing much harder and they are at least somewhat competitive this year. It is a vast departure from last season, when they were openly putrid and possibly the worst major conference team ever. In last season’s 107-57 demolition in Piscataway Purdue had more rebounds than Rutgers had points. Jacquil Taylor, Purdue’s seldom-used and oft-injured center, had a career game with 12 points and 10 rebounds in just 14 minutes.
As we have learned, however, we can’t take anything for granted. This is a Rutgers team that took Wisconsin to overtime and probably should have won had it hit some free throws in regulation. A victory tonight would be an absolute shock for sure, but with six games left we need to be on guard.
From: Piscataway, NJ
Date : Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Tip Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 19
2015-16 Record: 7-25, 1-17 Big Ten
2016-17 Record: 13-13, 2-11
Opponent Blog: On the Banks
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 7-1
Last Rutgers Win: 81-73 at Purdue on 12/4/1975
Last Purdue Win: 107-57 at Rutgers on 1/18/2016 (largest Big Ten win in Purdue history)
NCAA Tournament History: 6 appearances, last in 1991. 1976 Final Four
This is only the fourth time Purdue and Rutgers have played since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten. Their newcomer brethren Maryland has split with the Boilermakers 2-2, with each team winning and losing on the other’s home court. With Rutgers, it has been all Purdue. The Boilers have won all three games by comfortable margins. The closest was a 92-85 home win in late February two years ago.
Then there was last year. Purdue absolutely demolished a short-handed team that was down to only seven scholarship players. The Scarlet Knights jumped out to a 2-0 lead and led for 78 seconds. By the 11:48 mark of the first half it was 25-8 Purdue. By the 7:46 mark it was 38-12. By halftime it was 59-26.
This wasn’t your average beatdown. Purdue took its foot off the gas for an entire half and still EASILY scored 107 points with its backups playing significant time. Rutgers had 57 points while Purdue had 63 rebounds. If Purdue had not scored a single point in the second half it still would have won by two. Think about that for a moment. PURDUE NEEDED JUST 20 MINUTES TO BEAT THEM LAST YEAR! We didn’t even have just one guy go off. Vince Edwards, Caleb Swanigan, Dakota Mathias, and Jacquil Taylor were our leading scorers with 12 points each. A.J. Hammons only had 6 points and one block. Of Purdue’s 11 scholarship guys, Hammons scored the fewest points and played only 14 minutes. We won by 50 and our NBA Draft pick barely played or did anything.
That game last season was the last significant contribution of both Taylor and Kendall Stephens. Purdue out-rebounded them 63-23 and only turned the ball over 4 times. In watching that entire game it wasn’t even that Purdue played extremely well. It was just that Rutgers was that bad.
This year is different for Rutgers. As I said, they are better, but it was hard for them to get much worse. After only winning one Big Ten game (and that coming because Minnesota was down to five scholarship players in the regular season finale). They have already doubled their Big Ten win total. If they win one more conference game this season it will be their best since joining the league. They also won a Big Ten road game for the first time ever, beating Penn State in State College 70-68. That makes them 1-24 all-time in Big Ten road games and they are 5-44 overall in the league.
This year’s team is much, much better than the outright putrid of last year. They went 11-2 in the non-conference season, but the best win of those 11 was over Stony Brook. They at least pushed Miami and Seton Hall, two potential NCAA teams, on the road before falling. In league play they took Wisconsin to overtime and also beat the same Nebraska team that Purdue lost to.
Unfortunately, the numbers are stacked against them tonight. Rutgers is the worst offensive team in the conference at 66.6 points per game and Purdue leads the league at 81.6. Both teams are virtually equal, however, in terms of scoring defense with Rutgers sitting fourth in the league allowing 66.4 points and Purdue just behind them at 66.6. Purdue is second in the league in shooting at 48.4% from the floor and Rutgers is last at 41.3%.
It is even worse when you look at three-point shooting. Purdue is tops in the Big Ten and one of the best teams in the country at 41.8% and Rutgers is, again, last in the Big Ten at 28.8%. In what should be a fun battle Purdue leads the conference in defensive rebounding, but Rutgers leads in offensive rebounding. Of course, part of that comes from Rutgers being such a poor shooting team that there are a lot more rebounds to go around on the offensive end for them. That also means the potential of another Caleb 20/20 game is there tonight. This also would be the night for him to break the school record of 27 rebounds in one game held by former Kokomo Wildkat head coach Carl McNulty in 1951.
Individually Rutgers is led by sophomore Corey Sanders at 13.1 points per game. Deshawn Freeman also averages 11.3 points per game, while Nigel Johnson and Mike Williams also score at least 10 points per game. The 6’7” Freeman is also their leading rebounder at 8.3 per game. C.J. Gettys, a graduate transfer from UNC-Wilmington, gives them a 7’, 280 pound body to bang with in the middle, but he is not quite as skilled as Isaac Haas. He averages 7.9 points per game on 57.9% shooting. Shaquille Doorson, a 7’ 270 pound center from the Netherlands also has some promise.
Let’s be honest though. This is still Rutgers and we’re playing in Mackey Arena. I respect that they are much better than they have ever been in the Big Ten. It is hard to be worse when they lost 31 consecutive conference games before beating Minnesota last year because even the worst of Northwestern rarely did that. Even then, Purdue is the much better team and we’re playing for a conference title now.
Honestly, if Purdue somehow loses this game it would be catastrophic. We would have no business even making the NCAA Tournament, let alone winning the Big Ten. The only way Rutgers wins is if they play their absolute best basketball of the season by a wide margin and if Purdue just completely looks past them to a tough Michigan State game on Saturday.