Rutgers Men's Basketball vs. Purdue
Noah Fernandes against Purdue. (Photo courtesy Rutgers Athletics)

The Tale of Two Halves for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights

In history, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-9) have beaten the Purdue Boilermakers (19-2) in most of their matchups. Although Purdue has found more Big Ten success over the past decade, this matchup has become an extremely anticipated one. The crowd played a massive role in yesterday's matchup, but the Scarlet Knights failed to persevere despite fighting to the very end. Ultimately, the Scarlet Knights fell to Purdue at home, 68-60.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Get Off to a Slow Start

In the first half, the Boilermakers managed to gather a ton of momentum from countless errors made by the Scarlet Knights. The Knights struggled to find their rhythm and make shots in the first half. Not to mention, the unordinary number of turnovers (7) that were caused by the Boilermakers made it difficult to establish any type of momentum moving forward. It appeared Purdue was much more aggressive in finding ways to get the free-throw line more efficiently than Rutgers. 

“In the second half, we got 40 points sometimes you just have to figure out a way, but when you have a seven foot-five guy [Zach Edey] protecting the paint, you’ll probably not get to the paint much,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell explains shooting struggles. “We got in there a few times and we finished sometimes, but whenever you get there and he’s not there protecting [Edey] you have to make those.”

Former No. 1 player in the country, Zach Edey, proved to be a matchup issue even for one of the better defenders in the country, Cliff Omoruyi. Despite allowing Edey to record a double-double with 26 points and 12 rebounds, the Scarlet Knights still managed to outrebound the Boilermakers collectively. 

“If you look at our numbers they even out, however we’re plus 11,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter states after being asked about the emphasis on rebounding heading into the game. “Therefore, you’d think we have an advantage, so heading into the game that’s all we talked about because in the past, they [Rutgers] has been better than that.”

Rutgers Dominate the Second Half

The Scarlet Knights managed to cut the deficit heading into halftime, 33-20. The Knights managed to cut the game within a five to ten-point deficit numerous times throughout the second half. Unfortunately, they never found the opportunity to take control of the lead, instead they trailed all game. That said, they outscored Purdue in the second half, 40-35, however the cushion that was built upon from the first half proved to be too much for the Knights to overcome. 

“I’m a big believer in when you play someone you get their best, especially when you’re ranked second in the country.  …We told them we have to be able to do small things here to separate, just think if we have seven to eight more rebounds what does this game possibly look like, but give them credit. They beat us in that stat column today, and it’s a huge stat no matter who you’re playing but it’s even more important when you play Rutgers,” Painter concludes.

In the second half, the Knights' energy improved greatly, and most importantly they turned the ball over only three times versus their seven previously. Naturally, this allowed Rutgers to find better shots and get into a rhythm as a team. Edey played a huge factor in disrupting their momentum; oftentimes when Rutgers appeared to be gaining traction the game was slowed down by free throws. Eventually, the Boilermakers were able to stall out Rutgers' offensive avalanche and the Knights didn’t have much of a response for it. 

“You also have to make some midrange and threes because that’s kind of what they allow you to do. But, I thought we played with a better rhythm in the second half,” Pikiell continues.

What’s Next for Rutgers?

At home, the Scarlet Knights will faceoff with Penn State (9-11) after coming off back-to-back losses. The rivalry between these two universities stems back to the early 2000s, however both teams appear to be evenly matched this season. Therefore, this contest should prove to be extremely entertaining and will allow opportunities for locals from both standpoints to attend and enjoy a good classic rivalry.