Well, the magical run but short run came to an end for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Madison Square Garden on Friday night. After winning three games in the conference all season, Rutgers won two in two days to earn themselves a visit with a team that handed them two of their fifteen conference losses.
However, credit to Rutgers, they played the Purdue Boilermakers incredibly well and got into their strengths to force Purdue to grind out a win. To credit the Boilermakers, that’s exactly what they did. Let’s take a look at some of the takeaways from the game.
What We Learned
1. Postseason play is Vincent Edwards’ time
Over the past three years, Vincent Edwards has averaged 17.1 points per game in postseason play, whether it be the Big Ten Tournament or the NCAA Tournament. Some of the best performances by the senior star have come in the postseason, and Friday night has to be up there with his best.
Finishing with 26 points on 10-14 shooting to go along with five rebounds, Edwards kept the Boilermakers afloat in the first half, scoring 12 points on 5-7 shooting to take Purdue into the locker room down only three. In a game that was tight throughout, Vincent Edwards may have hit the shot of the game with 5:23 remaining in the second half, hitting a three on a pass from Carsen Edwards to make it a five point game and provide the Boilermakers with some breathing room.
Edwards has been one of the more underrated stars in college basketball during his time at Purdue, and it doesn’t seem that he’s going to disappoint in the final few games of his career.
2. The offensive versatility of Purdue will make them tough to beat
In tournament basketball, teams need to be able to win games in a handful of ways. When the shots aren’t falling from the outside, can you score on the inside? If a team is locking up your interior offense, can you manufacture offense to get some open perimeter shots? Purdue is a complete offensive team, with Isaac Haas providing the interior punch and a plethora of guards and perimeter players that can make outside shots.
When things break down, Carsen Edwards or Vincent Edwards can go get their own shot. Dakota Mathias, Ryan Cline and P.J. Thompson can all provide consistent perimeter shooting to give Haas an outlet when teams cheat down into the post defensively. A team that can score in the amount of ways that Purdue can will always be a tough out in March.
3. Rutgers should not hang their head about the season
It’s come to an end, yes. It probably wasn’t the final result, record wise, that some had hoped for in year two of the Steve Pikiell era. To be realistic, however, this Rutgers Scarlet Knights team has made some significant progress on the floor. Just two years ago, Rutgers would have been completely overwhelmed by talent and effort.
Effort is no longer a question in Piscataway.
With young talent like Geo Baker and Issa Thiam, Rutgers is definitely on an upward projection. They play an inspired brand of basketball on the defensive end and are a very potent offensive rebounding team, as was on display against the Boilermakers Friday night.
Rutgers is trending upwards. They’re still a few years away, but they’ve made some tangible progress in a process that was always going to take a handful of seasons.
It wasn’t a pretty win for the Boilermakers, but they survived and will advance. If the Edwards and Edwards firm can continue to play the way they did on Friday, combining for 52 points, Purdue will be a tough team to beat.
There’s plenty to clean up on a short turnaround, but a win is a win in this tournament.
For Rutgers, they had an incredible two day run and they should be back next season to make a bit more noise during the regular season slate.