On a Saturday that had one game featuring two teams with serious aspirations in March and another game that featured a team still battling for a potential NIT berth, there was plenty of intrigue on this final Saturday before the madness of March begins.
Maryland headed into West Lafayette for a nationally televised, rematch edition showdown with 18 NBA scouts in the audience to view multiple potential prospects for the upcoming NBA draft on both teams.
Northwestern hosted a Rutgers team that is somehow trying to scrap and claw their way out of the conversation for one of the worst major conference basketball teams of recent memory. Losing at home to Rutgers would've severely damaged their season.
Game of the Night: Purdue Boilermakers 83, Maryland Terrapins 79
Well, despite what at times seemed to be their best effort to lose, Purdue somehow managed to pull out a big victory at home against the tenth ranked Terrapins. In a game that was composed of scoring runs by each team, even as the margin climbed as high as 16 for Purdue in the first half, it never seemed like they had the game put away.
Both of these teams, as good as they are, have had achilles' heel type of issues throughout the entire season. Interestingly enough, both teams faced these issues in big ways in Mackey Arena on Saturday afternoon.
For Maryland, they're a team who even with their good size on the front line and fairly big guards, they have struggled in the rebounding category far more than you'd like for a team with aspirations like they've got.
Against a team with the completely overwhelming size that Purdue can throw at you on their front line, you knew rebounding would be a huge key. On plenty of occasions, however, the offensive rebounds came on long rebounds that ricocheted out to a guard. Purdue out-rebounded Maryland 41-22 and enjoyed a healthy 24-10 advantage in second chance points.
As was mentioned, Purdue obviously has their massive front line. A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan can typically dominate their opposition purely because of their size, not to mention the undeniable talent they each possess. The front court isn't the issue at all in Lafayette, that issue continues to be the play of their guards. Especially down the stretch of games, as teams begin to press, Purdue's back court continues to panic.
The Maryland press did a great job forcing turnovers that they then converted on offensively, and although Maryland never once led in this game, they certainly made the Purdue faithful extremely nervous.
A.J. Hammons led Purdue in scoring with 19 points and collected 7 rebounds, while Melo Trimble led the Terrapins with 19 points and five assists.
Well, Rutgers extended their conference losing streak to 31 games dating back to last year. Saturday's loss dropped them to 0-16 in the conference and 6-23 overall this year. There truly isn't much to say about this Scarlet Knights team that hasn't already been said. They stayed below 300 in the KenPom rankings, have garnered talk of being perhaps the worst team in the history of the Big Ten, and you almost have to expect a complete overhaul in staff this offseason.
For Northwestern, more importantly, this win keeps them in the conversation as an NIT team. Losing this game would absolutely damage their reputation, resume and you can imagine the "Fire Chris Collins!" crowd that would emerge oh so very quickly. Northwestern improved to 18-11 overall and 6-10 in the conference with this home win that ended up with a margin of 39 points. Northwestern shot 17-28 from the three point line en route to the huge win.
Tre Demps led the Northwestern Wildcats with 24 points and 8 rebounds and Jonathon Laurent led the Rutgers Scarlet Knights with 17 points and 6 rebounds. For Northwestern, they need to keep on winning and build as much momentum as possible for the Big Ten tournament and into an NIT appearance. For Rutgers, the season can't end soon enough.