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What We Learned: Rutgers Scarlet Knights 51, Purdue Boilermakers 82

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

One of the Big Ten’s best teams played one of its worst on Wednesday night, and we got the result we all expected.

Purdue made easy work of Rutgers, 82-51, on Wednesday at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette. The home victory extended Purdue’s winning streak to 10 games and bumped the Boilermakers to 3-0 in league play. For Rutgers, it was a third straight loss and dropped the Scarlet Knights to 0-3 in the Big Ten.

Purdue held a 21-point lead at half, and Rutgers never made it closer than a 14-point game in the second half. Five different Boilermakers reached double-digits in points, with senior center Isaac Haas leading the way with 14 points and six rebounds. Freshman guard Geo Baker led the Scarlet Knights in scoring with 11 points.

With league play back in full swing, we were able to learn a little bit about both of these teams in this blowout. Here are a few takeaways from both the winner and loser in this matchup.

What We Learned

1) Purdue will contend for the Big Ten title

It’s time to start recognizing Purdue as a true threat to win the Big Ten this year, and possibly make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

It may not make sense for me to say a team ranked 13th in the country deserves more respect, but that’s the case with Purdue. The Boilermakers have been extremely impressive for all but two games in the Bahamas this year, yet many are ready to hand the Big Ten crown to Michigan State. Purdue proved on Wednesday night that they’ll have a say in the conference race.

Beating Rutgers isn’t a huge deal, but it’s how they beat the Scarlet Knights that was impressive. Purdue dominated this game from opening tip and did what good teams are supposed to do in league games — beat the bottom dwellers convincingly. There was no doubt in this game and if Purdue continues to improve over the season then they’ll be right up there with the Spartans at the end of the year.

2) Rutgers still has long way to go

It’s truly hard to believe these Scarlet Knights beat a top 15 team less than three weeks ago, because since then they haven’t won a game.

Rutgers dropped its third straight game since knocking off then-No. 15 Seton Hall on Dec. 16. Tonight’s blowout loss at Mackey Arena comes on the heels of back-to-back losses to mid-majors that frankly aren’t great teams.

Losing to Purdue tonight doesn’t come as a surprise. This wasn’t a game Rutgers should have won, but how they lost is concerning. The game was out of hand at halftime, thanks to poor shooting and being dominated on the glass. It appeared just a few weeks ago Rutgers was turning the corner but obviously they are still a ways away from being anything more than a bottom dweller in the Big Ten.

3) Another stellar defensive night for Purdue

Purdue was yet again great on the defensive end, making life extremely hard for the Scarlet Knights on Wednesday.

Purdue held Rutgers to a season-low 51 points, which was the seventh straight game where the Boilermakers’ opponent scored less than 70 points. Even more impressive was Purdue’s ability to force poor shot attempts from the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers finished the game shooting 33.3 percent from the field and an atrocious 2-for-13 — which is 15.4 percent — from behind the arc. Purdue also finished the game with five blocks to reach 100 blocks on the year, which ranks in the top 10 nationally.

Rutgers is by no means an offensive juggernaut, but this was still a great showing defensively for Purdue. The Boilermakers are continuing to make it extremely hard to score against them, and if you don’t hit shots then you stand no chance at beating Purdue.

Overall

Purdue did what it was supposed in this game. They beat up a team they should have, and because they did it with ease it’s finally time to start giving Purdue the respect they deserve. The Boilermakers have all of the pieces needed to win the Big Ten again this year, and I’d even argue that this year’s team is more balanced and deeper than last year’s squad that won the league.

As for Rutgers, it was another disappointing evening as the Scarlet Knights continue to slump. It appears it’s going to be another tough road in Big Ten play for Rutgers this year. The Scarlet Knights have proven they can hang with — and even beat — some good teams at home, but don’t expect Rutgers to win too many games outside of the RAC this year.