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Rutgers Men's Basketball Game Preview: Purdue

Buckle up and expect Rutgers to be 20+ point underdogs in their next four games.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch & Listen

TV: 7:00 pm on BTN

Radio: Rutgers IMG Radio Network WOR (710 AM) & WCTC (1450 AM); WRSU (88.7 FM)

Spread: Purdue - 20

Injury Update

Deshawn Freeman, Shaq Doorson, and Ibrahima Diallo all remain out indefinitely. There has been no official word on Jonathan Laurent for tonight, but Eddie Jordan was hopeful he would play.  Depth will continue to be a major issue for tonight's game, especially if Laurent cannot play.

About Purdue

The Boilermakers enter tonight's game at 3-2 in the Big Ten and 15-3 overall.  In conference play, they have beaten Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State, while losing to Iowa and Illinois, which was a big upset. They started the season 11-0 before falling to #17 Butler.  Purdue owns zero wins over ranked teams but beat Pitt and Florida in non-conference play.

Purdue is a really big team, with their top two scorers being centers and their starting guards standing 6'5" or above. They are a very deep team, with ten players averaging more than 13 minutes per game. They average 78 points a game with five players averaging nine points or more.  Purdue is a tremendous rebounding team, averaging 43 boards a game and they have four players averaging 5 or more a game. They are also a great passing team, especially the big men, and average 18 assists a game with six players averaging 2 plus per game. Between their size, depth and rebounding, they are a terrible matchup for Rutgers.

Purdue is led by 7'0" foot senior center A.J. Hammons, who lead the team with 13.8 points per game and shoots 62.8% from the field.  He also leads the Boilermakers 2.6 blocks per game and is second in rebounding with 7.8 rebounds per game.  5-star recruit and 6'9" freshman forward Caleb Swanigan averages 10.3 points per game and leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per game. 7'2" sophomore center Isaac Haas averages 11 points a game while playing just 16 minutes per game and shoots 57.9% from the field.  6'7" forward Vince Edwards averages a solid 9.4 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game and leads Purdue from behind the arc, shooting 41.2% from three-point range. This is a talented team.

Keys To The Game

Spread The Floor

In the first half against Ohio State, Rutgers spread the floor with four players on the perimeter and moved the ball around, playing their best halfcourt offense of the season. Corey Sanders and Bishop Daniels were active at the top of the key and were able to get open looks on the perimeter for both themselves and their teammates. They played with pace and purpose, taking smart shots within the offense.  Purdue has a huge height advantage, so Rutgers needs to implore the same strategy in order to stretch out their defense. That will create lanes to drive and attack the paint. Which leads me to our next key...

Get To The Free Throw Line

Rutgers cannot settle for three-pointers or long jumpers early in possessions and need to attack the trees of Purdue.  They shot 28 free throws against Ohio State, 4 more than the Buckeyes, and got in the double bonus early in the first half.  That was a big reason they had a lead at halftime, before forgetting how to attack the rim in the second half. Purdue is huge inside, so they need to drive and force contact, drawing fouls and creating space on the perimeter as the game goes on. Much easier said than done. However, Rutgers has no chance if they simply rely on shooting contested jumpers from long range, they have to take it to the bigs of Purdue and get to the line.

Attack The Boards

With Purdue's size advantage, Rutgers is going to have a tough time grabbing rebounds.  Their only chance is for all five players on the court to crash the glass on every shot.  Guards slashing to the rim from the perimeter are hard to box out and hopefully Bishop Daniels, Mike Williams, and Corey Sanders can slip by their defenders and steal a few boards. If the entire team doesn't attack the boards aggressively, they stand no chance limiting Purdue or having second chance opportunities off of offensive rebounds.

Corey Sanders Create Open Looks For Teammates

Sanders leads all conference freshman in scoring per game with 13.6 points and scored 20 points against Ohio State.  He shot the lights out in the first half, including 4-6 from three point range.  The problem was he forced some long range shots in the second half, couldn't stay hot and the Rutgers offense fell apart.  While Sanders needs to score points for Rutgers to have a shot to win any remaining game, he needs to stay within the flow of the offense.  He needs to focus on getting the ball more to players in position to take a high quality shot.  He has rarely driven to the rim and dished the ball to an open teammate on the perimeter much lately.  Sanders averages 3.4 assists per game, but is only averaging 2 assists in his last three games. He can't do it all by himself on offense and force quick, bad shots on offense.  He must keep Rutgers disciplined in the halfcout and work to create open shots for his teammates, on top of scoring along the way.  A tall task for sure, but a necessary one.

Hope for Purdue to have an Off Night

Purdue is a terrible matchup for Rutgers and this game could easily be a 30+ point loss if they play their best. If Purdue comes out flat and disinterested, Rutgers needs to take advantage. Regardless, hope for Rutgers to play disciplined, smart, hard-nosed basketball for 40 minutes tonight.  If they lose focus or give anything less than maximum effort, this game will be the ugliest so far, in a season where Rutgers has lost their last four conference games and six of their past eleven games total by 22 points or more. I don't expect miracles, but I hope Rutgers plays with some purpose and effort, rather than use their home uniforms as white flags, as this game could be over well before halftime. Let's hope the four days off and the possible return of Laurent spark this team at home.