Once conference play begins in the Big Ten it seems like games on a Monday are a relative rarity, so tonight's matchup between Purdue and Rutgers is the uncommon Monday night Big Ten showdown. Without further ado, let's get to the preview.
Game of the Night: Purdue Boilermakers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7:00 ET | BTN)
The last time Purdue traveled to Jersey to face Rutgers the Boilers kept Rutgers from making a single field goal over the last 12:40 of the first half, turning a tied game into a 13 point halftime lead. That lead would blossom into a 48-28 lead with just over six minutes to go before a quick run by the Scarlet Knights made things look a bit more reasonable, ultimately falling 51-61 when everything was said and done.
While that game was almost a year ago, things haven't drastically changed for both teams. Purdue is probably a better team overall, though their roster buildup is still more or less the same, while Rutgers is once again struggling in the Big Ten and still has an absolutely dreadful offense. Things have also been particularly tricky for Rutgers on the defensive side of the ball as of late, with Rutgers giving up at least 79 points in all five Big Ten games and 90.7 points per game the last three. Eddie Jordan's program is 285th in field goal percentage, 287th in scoring and 270th in defensive scoring (and that's before realizing they're giving up an additional 10 points per game in Big Ten play).
So while things for Rutgers have quickly deteriorated from bad to atrocious, Purdue will be looking to take care of business before hosting Ohio State later on this Thursday. The Boilermakers got off to a hot start but have struggled recently with consistency, splitting their last four games. It's really been a tale of atrocious second halves for Matt Painter's team, with Purdue blowing a huge lead in the second against Iowa and falling part at Illinois about a week ago. In between those two poor 20 minute outings, Purdue beat down Penn State and breezed past a short handed Michigan team.
The two biggest issues facing Purdue right now are turnovers and consistency from the perimeter. Purdue hasn't found a way to keep hitting shots from outside at a high rate and the team will keep chucking up three pointers even when they refuse to fall, leading to stretches of a stagnant offense that allows teams to stick around or sometimes even build a lead. Mix that with some issues with ball security, likely impacted by the lack of a true point guard that can carry the team, and you have an offense with some notable flaws. That being said, though, their size down low and defense have been enough to carry them on most nights, even when the offense can't find it's footing.
Like mentioned above, Rutgers is very, very bad on the offensive side of the ball. Facing off against a strong Purdue defense could turn disastrous quickly for a Rutgers program that can't score and Purdue should be able to coast by even if their offense is underwhelming. Either way, the Boilermakers duo of A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas, as well as freshman Caleb Swanigan, should be far too much for Rutgers to handle, with the only question being how Purdue shoots the ball from outside. If the backcourt can shoot effectively tonight, this game will get ugly in a hurry. If the jump shots aren't falling, Rutgers may be able to keep it around a dozen or so for a good chunk of the night, but it's hard to see Rutgers having the firepower to land an upset.