The Purdue Boilermakers shot out of the first half against the Rutgers Scarlett Knights in the way you would hope on the road in the B1G but fizzled out in the second half to survive a comeback in an environment they have struggled to win over the last several seasons. Although any road win the B1G is a good win and a lot of times you just want to get on the bus and get back home no matter what, this was a game Purdue should have throttled the opponent to a 20+ point victory. That isn’t what happened but there were still some positives that Purdue can build off of heading into another big week of games in search of a B1G regular season title.
Let’s get into ‘The Rebound!’
1 | Let Braden Smith Cook
Smith, after some struggles for a few games, has seemingly fully turned the corner as the sophomore point guard went for 19 points on 7-10 shooting (3-5 3pt), 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. That’s a solid day at the office for anyone although I’m sure he would like to see those assist numbers be around 6 to 7 per game. He did have 2 turnovers but neither of those ended up being ones that led to runout opportunities for Rutgers.
Smith was the counter balance to another big day from Zach Edey as Purdue’s other starters (TKR, Loyer, Jones) really struggled on the offensive end shooting the ball going 2-16 as a trio. Smith likely had more opportunities to make an impact on the offensive end but Rutgers went with a really long defender on him to limit his ability to see over the defense and he seemed to struggle to find Edey on the roll. It would be nice to see Purdue go to an empty side pick and roll to get Smith in a better position at times or force a switch to get a smaller defender.
Smith has been really good this season and it is important to note that he continues to rebound really well for a lead guard type of player. There aren’t many point guards in the country who you can realistically expect to get 7 to 10 rebounds most nights.
2 | Don’t Let Rutgers’ Offense Get Going
Purdue played really well on defense most of the game but allowed some big runs from a really poor offensive team. A lot of those came from some uncharacteristic issues for Purdue that allowed Rutgers to get second change points and score off turnovers. That was the recipe to allow Rutgers to hang in this game and that is why it was a 68-60 game instead of 80-50.
Purdue played really well defensively in the first half but gave up 10 offensive rebounds that led to 9 second chance points. The Boilers also allowed 4 points off turnovers which means that 13 of Rutgers points were a direct result of bad basketball by Purdue. Overall, Rutgers outrebounded Purdue 36-32 and have a total of 15 offensive rebounds for 15 points. They also generated 15 overall second chance points meaning half of their total points were a direct result of Purdue’s inability to take care of the ball and not rebound on the defensive end.
Rebounding got better in the second half but turnovers were a major problem again for Purdue. The Boilers had 15 total and couldn’t ever quite get the run they needed to put Rutgers away. Instead, Purdue gave up a run of 9-0 when they were up by 14 with 16 minutes left in the second half over the course of less than 90 seconds. Purdue’s lack of focus nearly cost it a road game against an opponent they should have easily beaten as the lead whittled down to just two points on two seperate occasions.
3 | Don’t Turn the Ball Over
This was a bad performance for the Boilers against Rutgers. Yes, Rutgers is likely the best defense Purdue will face in the B1G in terms of forcing turnovers and getting steals but it was how those turnovers occurred that can’t happen. We’ve said it numerous times already that Purdue can live with Smith and Edey have 3 or even 4 turnovers if it means they aren’t really poor decisions that lead to runouts or allow a team to gain momentum. Those guys have the ball in their hands most of the time so it is bound to happen (although Matt Painter believes Smith should be limiting himself to about 1 per game, in all honesty).
The issue against Rutgers is that multiple other guys had multiple turnovers and that is how Purdue goes from 10 to 15+ really quickly as Kaufman-Renn had 3 turnovers, Lance Jones had 2 turnovers, and Mason Gillis had 3 turnovers (although I may be willing to excuse one of those as Smith put him in a bad situation on a runout opportunity). Those 8 turnovers just can’t happen when those guys aren’t primary ball handlers. It also allowed Rutgers to have 15 points off turnovers and that is a way to allow an inferior opponent to hang around.
Purdue was rather lucky that this didn’t end up leading to a loss. When you combine 15 turnovers with getting out rebounded and giving up 15 offensive rebounds for 15 second chance points, that’s a recipe for a taking a bad loss. Credit to the Boilers for finding a way and grinding out a victory but it wasn’t very pretty.
And 1 | Don’t Let The RAC Get Crazy
Well, Purdue did a good job of sucking the air out of the building in the first half but again couldn’t close the deal in the second half and allowed a team to make a run and then stay in contact with them. A 9-0 run over just about 90 seconds took the game from a 14 point lead to a 5 point lead and the RAC was ready to erupt. Rutgers did get it to within 2 points on two different occasions but the Boilers responded well in both instances with a a quick 5-0 run (all by Edey) and a 13-7 run to close out the game over the final 5:19.
I was really tempted to give the Boilers another C grade here but given this was a road game against an opponent who has had success in these exact games against Purdue, it was nice to see Purdue respond the way they did to close the game out. Rutgers isn’t good enough to have a 9-0 run against Purdue, especially in such a short time frame when Purdue could have buried the home team and walked the fans out with 12 minutes left. Instead, it became a bit of a nail biter.
Purdue really should have ended up winning this game about 80-50 and that’s not hyperbole either. Purdue gave up way too many second chance scoring opportunities, turned the ball over that led to points, and limited their own chances with only 45 total shots. That’s a season low with the next lowest coming at Maryland with 54. Purdue is, to be honest, quite lucky to get out of Piscataway with a win after getting out rebounded 36-23, giving up 15 offensive rebounds (Purdue had only 6 of their own), turning the ball over 15 times (Rutgers had 10), and shooting 5-19 from behind the arc (2-11 in the second half).
Overall Grade: C
Just not an impressive performance by the Boilermakers given what they had shown their capabilities to be in the previous games. Is it good Purdue figured out a way to grind out a win on the road in the B1G in a place they have struggled? Heck yeah! We shouldn’t overlook the issues though as three other starters struggled to get anything going. Mason Gillis should have also gotten more than just 1 shot in the second half as he had gone 3-3 from the field (2-2 from 3pt).
Player of the Game:
Zach Edey | 26 points (9-12 fg), 8-13 FT’s, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks
Edey with another great performance as he went for 26 points and 12 rebounds on his way to a 72nd straight game scoring in double figures and his 53rd career double-double. He is now tied with Rick Mount in double digit scoring games in a career and one behind Terry Dischinger for career double-doubles (54). He will need just three more blocked shots to become only the third player in NCAA history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 200 blocks while shooting at least 60% from the field.
Play of the Game:
Purdue really started to labor at the end of the game on defense and was allowing a poor offensive team to get going. In fact, Rutgers scored 40 in the second half which has only happened three times for Rutgers in a half in the B1G this season (Iowa and Ohio State). With 8:15 left in the 2nd half, Rutgers hit a big three to bring the score to 50-48 and brought the RAC back squarely into the game.
On the ensuring possession, Edey received an entry pass directly from Braden Smith, turned, and dunked for an ‘And 1’ while sucking the momentum right out of the building. Edey would go on to hit the free throw and two more on the next possession to push Purdue back out to a 7 point lead. Although Purdue would surrender a 5-0 run right back, the short spurt there really held off Rutgers from grabbing the lead.
The @HammerAndRails 'Play of the Game' against Rutgers finds @zach_edey calming the raucous crowd at the RAC with an 'And 1' dunk after the Scarlett Knights had closed to within 2. Edey would go on a one man 5-0 run to push @BoilerBall's lead back to 7. pic.twitter.com/XFjKRojwaD— Jed Wilkinson (@PurdueWilkie) January 29, 2024