Purdue Extends Win Streak to Ten with Win Over Rutgers

By KEITH CARRELL
@BoilerColts
ISL Purdue Writer

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue scouted Rutgers well and exploited their strengths in an 82-51 victory Wednesday night at Mackey Arena in front of a near sellout crowd. The victory was Purdue’s tenth in a row and advanced the Boilermakers to a 3-0 start in Big Ten action (the first two games having come in early December due to the earlier finish of the conference slate with the Big Ten Tournament being held a week sooner than past years).

“I thought our defense was pretty good all night, but I thought our rebounding was great… I just thought we had a great effort of boxing out and going to get the basketball.” – Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter

Rutgers came into the game boasting one of the nation’s best rebounding (second in offensive rebounds) and defensive three point units, but Purdue had a plan to attack that from the start. It was apparent early that Purdue would attack the rim offensively, be it by posting Isaac Haas in the paint or drives from the guards, in order to create some space from behind the arc later; basketball’s version of the play-action pass. The Boilermakers also had an obvious, concerted effort to limit Rutgers’ rebounds and did so as a team by committing to boxing out like not seen from the team at any point this season. The result, Purdue held a 14 point advantage (23-to-nine) by the midway point of the opening stanza and shot a sizzling 55% from the field (16-29) and 58% (7-12) from distance in the first half; 49% and 44% for the game, respectively. On the glass, Purdue held the Scarlet Knights to six offensive rebounds in the game (on 40 missed shots) and outrebounded Rutgers 45-27 as a team.

Haas confirmed that scouting attributed to the rebounding focus, “Coach (Painter) drilled that mentality into us in the two practices that we had (to prepare for this game) that we were going to box out, we were going to get into those guys and not let them have second chance points. I think we did a really good job of that.”

If anyone were to look at this game and how Purdue won, when it got down to basics, they’d say Purdue won through a team effort; no single Boiler shined consistently through this game, but none was an overly weak link either. Purdue had eight players garner at least 10 minutes of action (seven of which had at least 20). Of those, seven grabbed at least five boards, but no individual had more than six. In the scoring column, Haas led Purdue with 14 points, but every starter netted at least nine and Ryan Cline also chipped in twelve from the bench.

Where the Boilers faltered in this one were in areas the team typically excels: free throws and turnovers. But, even in failures, Purdue stubbed their toe as a collective. Purdue committed 16 turnovers with ten of those coming from the starting unit. The usually sure-handed Dakota Mathias led the team with four giveaways, but ten players had at least one (Grady Eifert the only player to see the court and not cough it up). From the charity stripe, Purdue entered the game as one of the best in the conference, especially from the starting unit, but connected on only 71% of their 28 attempts, including a paltry six-of-ten in the first half. Interestingly enough, the one player who perhaps had been struggling the most from the line this year (Nojel Eastern) sank both of his attempts. When all was said and done, though, Purdue was clearly the better team and, even when not every cylinder was firing, came away with a resounding win.

As Purdue was building its lead in the first half, Carsen Edwards exhibited his rare gifts with a little over three minutes remaining. While fighting for the loose rebound off of a missed three from Corey Sanders, Edwards was finally able to corral it near the free throw line and began to push the ball up the court. The only way to describe it is a controlled uncontrollable, the dribble was clearly getting away from him, but Edwards just raced faster down the court, dribbling behind his back and splitting defenders along the way, capping it off by flipping a shot up and off the glass for a mesmerizing drive and layup. The basket advanced Purdue’s lead to 37-19.

The second half was a choppy one to get things going and had Rutgers been able to capitalize on some early struggles, the game could have become contested again. In the first five minutes of the period, Purdue turned the ball over five times and had made no (that’s zero) field goals, but had relinquished only three points from their halftime lead. In addition, 26 combined fouls were called in the second half, 15 of which were committed by the Scarlet Knights; Purdue was put into the bonus barely six minutes into the period. Mamadou Doucoure picked up his third foul on Purdue’s first possession and fouled out of the contest with 13 minutes remaining in the game; and then, for good measure, he picked up a technical while arguing with the referee over his fifth whistle.

Freshman Matt Haarms continues to clog shots at a rapid pace and added another three blocks against Rutgers. The most domineering came with 12:48 left in the second half when it appeared Sanders would have an open short jumper; Haarms blocked the shot and saved the ball from going out of bounds to Mathias who in turn was fouled by Sanders reaching for the ball.

While Eastern continued to struggle early in this contest, he was not the detractor he had been in recent games. Rutgers’ press did get to him, and other Boilers, in the game and Eastern rushed a few passes resulting in turnovers (the worst of which he sailed the ball into the third row of the Rutgers bench like a hot potato). But even with those two turnovers, he was able to contribute six points and an assist in his 13 minutes of action. The highlight for Eastern came from a missed Haarms midrange attempt from the left wing that Eastern was able to simultaneously catch off the rim and tip in with a behind-the-back finger roll in midair with 6:25 left in the contest.

When asked after the game about Eastern’s jaw-dropping basket, Haarms tried to explain it with a huge smile on his face and Haas and Cline smirking on either side, “I have no clue how he got that in there. I think he said that he was trying to get it in there; I do not believe it, but it was a great play… definitely one of the best circus shots I’ve seen all year. I think it was a beautiful shot, definitely not intended though – don’t let him tell you that was intended.” And then fellow seven-footer Haas chimed in, “He said he got fouled, but there was nobody around him.”

In keeping up with honoring Purdue greats of years gone by in Mackey, Steve Scheffler’s likeness was made into a bobblehead and given away to fans prior to the game. Scheffler also was introduced at halftime and gave a vivaciously rousing speech to the fans about why Purdue was the right school for him and that the university cares not only about sports but also about academia. Scheffler, never to shy away from self-deprecation, even quipped, “I should not be a bobblehead, I should be a knucklehead,” as he spoke to the crowd.

Next up:
Home: Nebraska on Saturday, 1/6 (2:15 pm, BTN)

Quick Hits:
This was the first time Purdue basketball has won three consecutive games by at least 30 points each… It’s the first time since the 2010-2011 season that Purdue began conference play with three straight wins (that team began 4-0)… The tenth straight win is tied for the fourth longest active streak in the nation… Purdue had a rarely-seen negative assist-to-turnover ratio with 13 assist and 16 turnovers… Rutgers went 0-7 from three in the first half and 2-13 for the game; Purdue went 7-12 and 10-23… Purdue outscored Rutgers 28-14 in the paint and 24-13 from the bench… Purdue never trailed in this contest, but the score was tied twice early… Geo Baker led Rutgers in scoring with 11, but took 12 field goal attempts to get there (the starters as a whole struggled from the field connecting on only 16 of 47 attempts)… Cline went 4-6 from the field (all threes), had six boards, and an assist off the bench for Purdue… During a break in the second half, Kevin Plawecki (former Catcher, now with the Mets), Gene Keady (former basketball coach), and Jeff Brohm (current football coach) were shown in succession on the video board; unsurprisingly Brohm received the loudest cheer of the group.

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