Purdue extends their winning streak to three in a row with an 84-72 victory over the streaking Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Sunday evening.
This was a big-time win for the Boilermakers. Rutgers has had Purdue’s number in recent years and spoiled the only No. 1 ranking in program history in December. Purdue got their revenge tonight, by beating one of, if not the hottest team in the entire country in a comfortable fashion. Rutgers came into today’s game with a 4 game winning streak coming against all teams in the AP Top 25.
From the opening tip, it was clear to see that Purdue had more juice than in previous games. The rest between today and Wednesday’s win was much needed, as Purdue did not have a day off for 23 days until that point. This team looked like they were reloaded and primed for a great performance, which turned out to be true.
Purdue came out on fire from downtown in the opening minutes with Sasha Stefanovic, Mason Gillis, and even Trevion Williams connecting from behind the arc. That was what the Boilermakers needed coming out of the gates, to set the tone and establish a level of confidence. Rutgers did end up storming back to make the game close again with a large run that spanned over 4+ minutes. Credit to the Boilermakers though, they weathered the storm and closed the first half on a 9-1 run, and took a 9 point lead into the break.
When Purdue was struggling around the midpoint of the first half, they had a bad habit of holding the ball outside and waiting 20 seconds to get into their offensive sets. When the half-court offense isn’t working as well, this team is going to struggle. Once they got out in transition a few times, the offense started to open up everything else.
One of the big knocks on this team is letting their opponents sneak back into games after opening up big leads. Purdue negated that by coming out of halftime and putting it on the Scarlet Knights to bust the game open and grow the lead to as much as 20 points in the second half. Rutgers wouldn’t go away quietly though, as they started to mount a small run in the middle of the half and things looked a bit shaky for a few minutes. Purdue responded to another Rutgers run with a few stops and timely buckets late.
Two of the biggest reasons teams give up big leads are free throws and turnovers. Purdue was nearly flawless in both of those areas throughout the second half. Being led by Jaden Ivey who went 8-10 from the charity stripe in the second half, Purdue shot 15-19 as a team. They also turned it over just twice in the second half, compared to 5 times in the first half.
The aforementioned Jaden Ivey was stellar this evening, scoring a game-high 25 points on 5-11 shooting and 15-18 from the free-throw line. Putting the ball in his hands is one of the surest things this team can do if they want to succeed. After struggling a bit early this season from the free-throw line, he has put that behind him and exceeded from there today.
Zach Edey and Trevion Williams were also very efficient tonight, dropping a combined 26 points on 10-14 shooting, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists as a duo. The Rutgers big men gave Edey and Williams some trouble on the defensive end, but Purdue was that much better when the ball was in their hands.
Recently, Purdue had been getting wins but was a little lackluster due to games getting stacked upon one another. Now they got a decent rest and came out playing like they were up until the Michigan game last week. This was important as Purdue needed a win to maintain the top slot in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers have a tough trio of games to close out the regular season at Wisconsin, at Michigan State, and home against Indiana. They will have to either win out or at worst take two of three against those teams to secure a 25th Big Ten Championship. Next time out Purdue will travel up to East Lansing next Saturday to take on the struggling Michigan State Spartans.