With the Rutgers Scarlett Knights 62-50 victory over the Michigan Wolverines, Purdue now knows the opponent it will face in the first game on Friday at the B1G Tourney. Rutgers was able to use their foundation of strong defensive pressure to limit the players surrounding Hunter Dickinson so his overall impact was limited. Rutgers used a similar tactic against Purdue in their only meeting this season that saw the Scarlett Knights defeat Purdue at Mackey Arena in the early part of the season 65-64.
In that first matchup, Zach Edey was able to have a strong game with 19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks but the rest of the starting 5 contributed only 26 points. Since that early season game, Purdue has switched two of their starters in an effort to improve shot making around Edey by inserting Mason Gillis at the PF and Brandon Newman at the SF. Newman’s shooting has seen an increase over the last month to the tune of averaging 9.6 points per game over the final 5 games of the regular season while providing a more intense wing defender generating 10 steals in that same span (he had previously generated just 6 all season).
That ability for Newman to provide solid scoring shooting and defense has allowed Coach Painter to insert Ethan Morton for Fletcher Loyer to provide Purdue their best defensive lineup without a drastic drop in scoring against a second line of players from the opponent. Much has changed for the Boilers since that early season battle but the truth remains that what Rutgers does defensively has proved to be incredibly difficult for Purdue to handle. However, the freshman guards have had a full season under their belts to learn how to handle the pressure that these longer and athletic guards put on them.