The Boilermakers looked to be set-up for a trap game, after two grueling road battles last week, a loss in East Lansing and an upset win in Madison on Friday, with Rutgers rolling into town four nights before Purdue sets to play Indiana on Saturday in one of college basketball’s best rivalries, but Purdue, energized by the return of their students, rolled against Rutgers 89-54.
Purdue got an early scoring surprise when redshirt freshman Sasha Stefanovic got hot early, scoring 8 points in the first half off two made threes and a break-away lay-up after a steal. He wasn’t done, knocking down two more threes in the second half for a new career-high of 14 points.
He wasn’t the only freshman to make an impact. True freshman Trevion Williams, fresh off his first start in Madison and a coming out game against one of the nation’s best centers, came off the bench after being banged up during the week and continued to make a claim as Coach Painter’s best option at the 5. He also had 8 first-half points to go along with 5 early rebounds and a couple highlight passes and a team-high +/- of + 15 as Purdue went into the half with a 40-30 lead.
The freshman would finish the game with his second-straight double-double, grabbing 13 boards to go with his 16 points.
But it wasn’t all surprises, as Purdue’s leading scorer and National Player of the Year candidates started off on fire, making his first three three-pointers of the night on his way to a relatively quiet 19 points despite shooting an efficient 6 of 12 from the floor and 5 of 10 from three. He played the role of play maker for Purdue, leading the team with 6 assists to just 1 turnover while also grabbing 5 boards.
The Boilers didn’t wait long to snuff out any chance of a Rutgers comeback. Rutgers made two free throws in a long first possession of the second half, and Purdue responded with three straight three-pointers. This nine point run was briefly interrupted by a Scarlet Knight three on a tough step-back by Geo Baker, but Purdue wasn’t done forcing turnovers and turning them into transition baskets.
Purdue’s 11 point run with just over 11 minutes to go gave Purdue 65-37 lead and the Boilermakers never looked back, pushing the lead to over forty.
Ryan Cline continued his strong shooting after a slow start to the first half, he made four of his six three-point attempts on his way to 12 points, three of them in the early portion of the second half. He also had 3 assists to go with 3 rebounds.
Purdue moves to 11-6 on the season and 4-2 in the Big Ten.
They now prepare to host in-state rival Indiana and loser of three straight games on Saturday, January 19th at 2 pm.