Purdue Extends Streak to 19; Survive in Jersey, 78-76
Photo credit: Purdue Basketball (@BoilerBall)
After a run of almost entirely comfortable wins, Purdue has now reverted to playing close games against everyone, it appears. Maybe it’s the weight of carrying the nation’s longest winning streak. Maybe it’s the fact that Vincent had the flu this week. Or maybe when you get to this level of success, you become everyone’s “big game” and thus get their greatest effort. It’s probably some combination of it all and at this point in the season all wins are beautiful, let’s be honest.
Purdue did their boa constrictor routine in Piscataway this afternoon and squeezed the life out of a depleted but scrappy Rutgers team, ultimately winning by just a bucket, 78-76.
That final score -- and the accompanying Purdue fan panic -- sort of suggests this game was in doubt, but it really never was. Purdue tied the game at 3 two minutes in and never trailed again. Purdue led by 11 at the half and while Rutgers applied some significant pressure in the second half, closing the game down to (briefly) a single point, Purdue again stretched the lead back to ten with under three minutes to play. And perhaps now is a good time to share the J Money Comfort Formula.
Everyone watches games their own way, so maybe none of you do this. But I try to talk myself into why I shouldn’t be nervous and how it’s enough of a lead to relax a bit. Of course, it never works but I still have these dialogues with myself. And I decided a while back that when you have a good defensive team that can hit free throws, you should try to relax if they’re up by twice as many points as minutes remaining. If there are five minutes left and the team is up ten? You should feel good. This, of course, is less comforting as the game winds down. Up six with three minutes left? Not bad. Up four with two to go? Getting nervous. Up a bucket in the final minute? Nah, not good. So obviously this works best when Purdue gets out to a lead and there’s too much time left to just chew your nails to the end. Anyway...so with a ten point lead and 2:45 to go, I felt things were good.
So did Carsen, it turns out, as he did the ol’ scoreboard point to the RU bench after they chirped at him at that point. Of course, then the wheels began to…..loosen. Rutgers went on a little 7-0 run, which was capped with a Corey Sanders triple -- and a foul was called right as his fired it. We all thought it was Carsen’s fifth and that Sanders was in line for a four-point play. Turns out it was a weird call -- a foul under the basket on Rutgers….but apparently after the shot had been released by Sanders. So the three would count but Purdue would shoot at the other end. PJ made the free throws and the foul parade would then continue to the end.
Purdue did not shoot well from deep, going 7/21 for 33%. Rutgers, on the other hand, actually shot 50% from deep and 48% from the field, far above their usuals. They also hit 8/10 from the line, all of this contributing to them keeping the game close. They also outrebounded Purdue 37-25 as Purdue was again exposed as a team that has impressive size but somehow doesn’t rebound well.
What Went Well
Vince did his thing where he looked sort of off for much of the game and then you go look at the stat sheet and he shot 50% from the field, 100% from the line and put up 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. If a couple of his three point attempts (0/4) go down, it looks even better. Vincent continues to be a swiss army knife.
Dakota his clutch shots when Purdue needed them, putting up 16 points (his most since Dec. 1) on 4/7 three point shooting and 4/4 FTs.
PJ was his steady self, as the third of four guys in double figures (Carsen was the other). All his shots were from deep and he hit half of them, plus 5/7 FTs.
Purdue knows how to win, ya’ll. Rutgers threw what they had at the Boilers and shot extraordinarily well (esp for them) and, to be fair, the RAC can get loud and when you’re down on that floor, it feels like the whole place is on top of you.
What Went Less Than Well
Carsen’s game was kind of all over. He contributed (and doesn’t everyone on this team, even when they’re not at their best?) 13 pts, four rebounds, three assists and two steals...but his game just felt a little out of sync. He missed some of his trademark bullrush-down-the-lane shots and went 0/4 from deep. I also mentioned the interaction with the RU bench which I’m sure KHC will have lots of thoughts on. Here at BS, we love Carsen’s ‘tude and his game in general -- but man, that would have been a tough one to choke on.
Issac was off again tonight as well. Purdue clearly wanted to use their size down low early -- and seemed to want to do it even more when shots weren’t falling in the first half. But Haas just couldn’t get it going tonight, winding up with a stinker of just seven points on 2/5 shooting. He also only had four rebounds (one offensive) and was beaten to a lot of balls under the defensive glass as well. It’s definitely too late to hope for his rebounding prowess to improve but it’s still shocking to continue to see.
Matty Haarms had only his second (you read that right) game of the season without any blocks credited.
Purdue “only” won by two, which doesn’t really bother me because that’s why you build cushion. But almost giving up a 50-burger in the second half is a little more worrisome. (I have personally seen the only two losses this team has had in 11 months -- believe you me, I was thinking about falling to 1-3 on the season.)
Rutgers fans are as dark as we all were during the Hazell football era. They kept talking about not wanting to be down more than 20 at the half (perhaps remembering the 50 point throttling Purdue put on them when Aneesh and I were in the house a couple years ago), how their team can’t hit shots, can’t hit free throws, etc. So it was nice for them to have a game that exciting to the end.
Rutgers fans also think Purdue traveled...a lot. You know how you sometimes go to a game in any sport and there are fans who don’t understand a particular rule and just keep perseverating on it? That was the RU fans in my section around traveling.
I think the important thing to take away from this game is that Rutgers gave Purdue more of a fight in their barn than Indiana did in theirs.
Carsen can dance and how can you not love how loose this guy is?
Rutgers is going to be good. Let Aneesh tell you:
the offense isn't great and the depth isn't there at all...but if you're tasked with rebuilding Rutgers basketball, hiring a good coach that builds on a foundation of defense and athleticism is the way to do it. shouts Steve Pikiell.— Aneesh Ramaswamy (@aneeshswamy) February 3, 2018
Indeed, shouts to Mr. Pickle. He’s turning a very slow boat in NJ. Substandard facilities, recruiting challenges, no history to point to...it’s a tough road. But Rutgers is already better than they were -- by a lot -- under Eddie Jordan. They’re not going to content in the Big Ten anytime soon but they can be a lot like Nebraska or Northwestern and rise up to put a scare into teams and they should be back in the NCAA tournament within 2-3 years.
Not only was Vincent the swiss army knife (or leatherman, if you will) tonight, but he crossed some stat thresholds that haven’t been seen often of late:
Purdue was pushed by a team playing very hard. A win is a win at this point. Could they have been looking ahead? Maybe, and if that makes you feel better, go with it. But I think this crew is really just too seasoned to take nights off anymore -- they’re focused and they know what works for them. They do what they’re good at and as we’ve documented before, they’re never all having bad nights. Tonight nobody was a superstar (though Vincent was close) but everybody did their part and they led for almost 38 minutes.
Now the mega-week is here. Purdue gets to rest up (Vince was still puking as of arriving in NJ -- not an entirely uncommon occurrence at Newark Airport) and hosts Ohio State on Weds. Mackey should be ready to explode. Then they go to East Lansing next Saturday. Win those and the conference is theirs.
23-2, 12-0. As we’ve been saying, enjoy this. It’s a fun ride.