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Purdue 68, Rutgers 70: #1 Goes Down Again

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Purdue reign at #1 looks to be short lived after a Rutgers upset on the road.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight week, college basketball’s #1 team goes down.

This week it’s Rutgers cutting the heart out of Boiler Nation, downing the Boilermakers 70-68 on Ron Harper Jr.’s half court heave as time expired.

The Purdue basketball program has had a lot of success, but they had never held the #1 ranking in the country. After one game as #1, they’ve still never won a game as the #1 team in the nation.

It looked like Purdue had answered Ron Harper Jr.’s first potential game-winning shot. The Rutgers star hit a fadeaway to go up 67-66 with just less than 20 seconds remaining. Rutgers first lead since early in the second half, but Trevion Williams answered with a drive and pretty shot off glass to put Purdue back on top 68-67 with 3.1 seconds on the clock. It was Williams 20th and 21st points of the game and it felt like Purdue’s final response in a game that was tougher than it should have been.

Instead, Harper Jr. weaved up court, euro stepped around Ethan Morton and Jaden Ivey and launched a shot from just across half court. The heave went up and straight into the hoop, hitting back iron and then going down. Down like Purdue’s hopes to retain the #1 ranking for another week. It was a shocking upset from a team that just got trounced by 35 points to Illinois in their last game.

For Coach Painter, this game will be used as further proof of the Purdue doctrine of being a great program, full of good teams, but unable to stay at the very top of college basketball.

There’s a lot of basketball to dissect, but it’s hard to focus on it through the narrative.

Purdue’s offense which has been nearly unstoppable this season, was stopped, frequently.

They only turned the ball over 11 times, but they struggled to make baskets all over the floor. They had their worst shooting night of the season. They 7 of 26 from three. They shot just 25-61 overall. They made less than 70% of their free throws. Their guards looked out of rhythm all night.

Sasha Stefanovic had just 9 points on 10 shot attempts. Isaiah Thompson didn’t score at all. Eric Hunter Jr. had 6 points.

Jaden Ivey did Jaden Ivey things, including stealing a dribble at the top of the key, pushing in transition, and slamming it down in windmill fashion. That gave Purdue a 65-59 lead late in the game. It felt like the kind of game ending punctuation that a #1 would plant on a struggling bottom rung Big 10 opponent.

Instead Harper Jr. dominated the last few minutes, assisting on a big dunk baseline, and making the two vital jumpers to give them the lead. He ended the game with 30 points and 10 rebounds.

Coach Painter will have a lot of material to work with as his team prepared for a non-conference game against NC State on Sunday.

For now, this is just a devastating loss for a Purdue team that was just starting to make people believe in.