In a game that was a miracle shot away from being one for the ages, Rutgers fell 78-76.
This was a masterful coaching job: Steve Pikiell and staff put together a game plan that could slow Isaac Haas and frustrate Purdue’s shooters for most of the night. Rutgers did enough defensively to hold the Boilermakers to 45% shooting (at last check anyway) and that is below how they normally play. Without their two best defensive players in Mike Williams and Eugene Omoruyi, Rutgers still got enough stops to get back int he game in the second half. Purdue won this game at the free throw line, not from the field. It’s another piece of evidence of what Pikiell and company can do when they have their own roster of recruited players and some depth.
Corey Sanders was Unstoppable: Sanders had been in a funk for the past few weeks, but he snapped out of it in a big way tonight. Purdue could not stop Sanders and for the first time in a while, Corey was able to get to the rim. His jumper was falling and he had 31 points on the night. As Corey goes so go the Scarlet Knights. Tonight they had enough to put a scare into Purdue. You knew Purdue was scared because they travel well and those fans were quiet a lot of the night and seemed shocked when they had to summon noise to try and inspire the Boilermakers.
You Can Tell Purdue Has Seniors: As furious as Rutgers comeback and upset attempt was, I do have to say I’m not sure I ever felt Rutgers would win. Why? Because Purdue never relinquished the lead. Seniors know how to win and every time the Boilermakers needed a basket, they got one. Pikiell coached a masterful end game, and Rutgers ran it to a T, but Purdue’s seniors made shots. This is the vision Steve PIkiell has for the future. Get his players to their senior year and let them roll. It’s going to take time and patience, but seniors are so key to winning in college basketball when you’re not recruiting one and dones.
What Does Rutgers Have Left? As I’m typing there, there are 47 hours and 15 minutes until Rutgers next game. They play an Indiana team that has struggled this season at times, but plays the kind of defense that drives Sanders nuts. And, let’s not forget depth. Williams and Omoruyi are still out and likely will be Monday too. So can they msuter this kind of effort for consecutive games? That’s been a problem for the Scarlet Knights all season. Indiana is winnable, but Rutgers needs to bring effort to break through.
For even more on this game, read Brian’s take.