The Big Ten only had one game on Monday, but it ended up being a massive showdown between previously unbeaten Purdue and Rutgers. It was expected to be a tight game and lived up to that billing.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 65, No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers 64
Heading into tip, this was expected to be a really tight game. Rutgers matched up well against Purdue and figured to be a stylistic problem for the Boilers. Here’s what I wrote in our preview:
On the court, the key matchups will be upfront. Can Cliff Omoruyi slow down Zach Edey, who’s been on a tear all season? Rutgers has down a great job of defending so far this season, ranking third nationally in defensive efficiency. However, they’ve never faced anything like this Purdue offense and Edey down low. It’s going to be one of the more intriguing individual battles in Big Ten play.
The backcourt battle also should be fun. Cam Spencer has carried things for Rutgers offense this season and is one of the team’s only productive three-point shooters. So, can Purdue do enough to get him off his game for Purdue to come out with the win? It’s a key challenge for the freshmen backcourt of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer.
All told, this looks like a really even matchup on paper. While Purdue is the better team, Rutgers is probably the squad best designed to go into West Lafayette and win of anybody in the Big Ten. The team’s interior defense and experience make for a nice balance to what Purdue brings to the table. This game could go either way. However, with the game in Mackey, Purdue seems like the safest pick here.
And while that isn’t exactly how things played out, it ended up being pretty true. Rutgers gave Zach Edey some problems early, where he got into foul trouble and ended up on the bench for most of the first half. The team also got just enough offensively from Cliff Omoruyi when Edey was sidelined to get a solid lead over the Boilers. And while Purdue closed things up in the second half, it wasn’t enough to escape with the win, as Rutgers grabbed the 65-64 upset on the road.
Obviously, it was a massive win for Rutgers and one that should be remembered fondly by fans for years to come. Beating a No. 1 ranked team is hard in its own right, let alone doing it on the road in a place like Mackey Arena. Nonetheless, Rutgers pulled it off on Monday, thanks in large part to the team’s defense and 16 points from Paul Mulcahy. Rutgers improved to 10-4 overall and 2-1 in league play with the win.
On the other side, Purdue fell to 13-1 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play with the loss. Unfortunately, it was an all-around underwhelming effort for the Boilers. Edey struggled with foul trouble, the freshmen backcourt hit the freshman wall, and the team shot an underwhelming 30.4 percent from three-point range. Off nights are going to happen and the Boilers certainly had one on Monday night. The good news is it took until early January for Purdue to have one, which speaks volumes about this team’s potential.
Moving forward, Rutgers will prepare for an intriguing game against Maryland at home on Thursday night. It should be another win for the Scarlet Knights. Purdue will hope to rebound on the road against Ohio State on Thursday, which won’t be an easy game. Don’t be surprised if the Boilers drop a second straight game there.