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Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals Preview: #14 Rutgers vs. #3 Purdue

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Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

How To Watch & Listen

#14 Rutgers (15-18; 3-15) vs. #3 Purdue (26-5; 15-3)

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City - Buy tickets here.

Tip-off: Friday, March 2nd at approximately 9:00 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery, and Rick Pizzo

Stream: BTN2GO

Radio: WCTC 1450 AM, WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #142; Purdue #5

(Note: Rutgers improved 9 spots after the 7 point win over Indiana)

KenPom Prediction: Purdue 74 Rutgers 58; Rutgers given a 7% chance to win

Vegas Line: Purdue -14.5

Series History: Purdue leads the all-time series 10-1, including twice this season. The last meeting was on February 3rd at the RAC, as Rutgers lost 78-76 in what was almost the biggest upset in high major conference play this season.

SB Nation Purdue site: Hammer & Rails

About Purdue

The Boilermakers have struggled a bit down the stretch of the regular season, losing three straight in early February after starting 12-0 in league play. They did win their last three regular season games and come in to tonight’s contest well rested.

Purdue has so many offensive weapons and can attack in many ways. They are scoring 82 points a game and are shooting 49.6% from the field, 42.1% from three-point range, and 74.7% from the free throw line. The Boilermakers have the best offensive efficiency numbers in the Big Ten from the regular season. Their only apparent weakness is they are not a strong offensive rebounding team, as they were just 13th in league play.

Defensively, Purdue is above average and had the fifth best efficiency in the Big Ten this season. Their opponents hold the lowest free throw rate in league play because they play fundamentally sound defense and don’t foul often. They are only 9th in the conference in steal and turnover rate.

Here are per game statistical averages for key players on Purdue:

6’1” sophomore guard Carsen Edwards - 18.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals

6’8” senior forward Vince Edwards - 14.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists

7’2” senior center Isaac Haas - 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks

6’4” senior guard Dakota Mathias - 12.5 points, 4.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals

5’10” senior guard P.J. Thompson - 7.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals

7’3” freshman center Matt Haarms - 5.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.3 blocks

6’6” junior guard Ryan Cline - 4.1 points, 1.9 assists, 1.9 rebounds

Know Your Three-Point Shooters:

Dakota Mathias - 84 of 178 for 47.2%

P.J. Thompson - 49 of 109 for 45.0%

Carsen Edwards - 77 of 190 for 40.5%

Vince Edwards - 43 of 108 for 39.8%

Ryan Cline - 36 of 93 for 38.7%

Rutgers Notes:

Steve Pikiell is 3-1 in Big Ten Tournament play.....Rutgers has now won two conference tournament games for the first time since 1998, when they defeated West Virginia and Georgetown to advance to the Big East Semifinals......During the Big Ten regular season, Rutgers was ranked 14th in offensive efficiency and 9th in defensive efficiency per KenPom.....Rutgers was 9th or worse in every offensive category in league competition measured by KenPom, with the exception of having the 4th best offensive rebounding rate in the conference......Defensively, the strength of Rutgers is forcing mistakes by their opponent, as they owned both the 3rd best steal rate and turnover rate in Big Ten play.

Watch Recap Of Indiana Win & Keys To Purdue Game

Thoughts From Rutgers On The Indiana Win & Playing Purdue

Steve Pikiell on what changed with Rutgers down 24-8 in the first half:

“We brought our subs in, and I thought De really gave us terrific energy. Geo Baker, coming off the flu, had great minutes, too. I told the guys I believe in what we do, I believe in our defense, I believe in our players. We just have to stay the course. These games are not easy. Any of them you’re going to be up sometimes and down sometimes, go through scoring droughts, defensive droughts, just gotta continue to stay the course. They did tonight. I’m really proud. Once we got the lead we did a really good job of keeping it. And made our free throws down the stretch. And Corey was terrific again. I think he has something to prove here. And he’s a good, really good player, and I think this is a great venue for him to showcase that.”

Steve Pikiell on continuing to advance through the Big Ten Tournament:

“I’ll tell you, never get caught up in the numbers. I told our guys this is a new season a couple days ago. And there’s no number. Everyone’s the same. Just gotta keep winning. And been able to do that. And I hope we get all of New Jersey and all of New York really helping us out because I know our guys love playing in front of a lot of people. But those numbers next to your name don’t mean anything. I used to be in a one-bid league where you could win 20 games in a row during the regular season, nobody cares. You’ve got to win the tournament. It’s a lot like what I’m used to for my whole career. You have to have a great weekend and we’ve had a couple of good days. So hopefully we can make it a great weekend.”

Corey Sanders on facing Purdue for a third time:

“Yeah, kind of got a little strategy for them. Coaches drew up a great game plan. I’m sure we’re going to get back to that tomorrow. So the game you see at Rutgers, trying to make that same game at the Garden, make it very interesting and see if we can come out with the W.”

“You saw that second game. When we’re on our p’s and q’s, it was a tight game, a great game to watch and a great game to be a part of. We’re going to try to do the same thing. They’re a great, well-coached team. They got great players. Haas and all of those guys can really play ball so we’re going to try to lock up and get a win.”

Corey Sanders on what it’s been like to have Rutgers fans at the Garden:

“Just to have people that support you like that, especially in the New York area, we’ve got a lot of alumni. Just to have the fans come out there and be behind us, just a great feeling, and it helps us get more amped up for the game and try to win.”

Eugene Omoruyi on facing Purdue at the Garden in the Big Ten Quarterfinals:

“We love our crowd. Our crowd always gets us hyped up. The louder the crowd, the better we play, that’s how I feel. That’s how I see it. It’s amazing, surreal. We’re going to try to make it three (straight wins). That’s how we see it. It’s best to go after the best team and we had them. I feel Purdue’s the best team in the league and I’m going for them every time.”

Mike Williams on advancing to the Big Ten Quarterfinals:

“It’s a surreal moment. We’re showing the world you can’t count us out. We all have dreams ourselves, we want to play in the Tournament. This is March Madness as I’ve said, anything can happen so we have to keep fighting, we have a tough one tomorrow with Purdue, got to have a great game plan coming in to hopefully get another win and keep playing.”

Keys To Victory

Rutgers continues it’s unexpected run to the Quarterfinals with a difficult challenge, facing Purdue for the third time this season. After losing by 30 points to the Boilermakers on the road in January, they nearly upset Purdue last month at the RAC. Mike Williams and Eugene Omoruyi did not play in that game due to injuries. Having them back for this game should certainly help.

For Rutgers to continue a cinderella run tonight, several things need to happen.

First, Purdue needs to come out cold shooting the basketball. They’ve had four days off and are well rested, but it’s also possible they are a bit rusty. Rutgers will be playing its third game in three days at the Garden and while fatigue is a concern, there comfort and confidence level should be at an all-time high. They’ll need to bring defensive intensity from the opening tip and contest every Purdue shot. Don’t give them anything easy. The Boilermakers can put up a flurry of points in a hurry and the more they have to work in their halfcourt offense, the better. Rutgers can’t afford to give them open looks behind the arc, because they have several players who can knock down three’s all along the perimeter.

In the second meeting, Rutgers held an amazing +12 rebounding margin against Purdue. The defense did an incredible job on center Isaac Haas, who was limited to just 7 points and 4 rebounds in the game. The Scarlet Knights also held a 10 point advantage in both points in the paint and with second chance points. They’ll need similar numbers in all three areas tonight if they want to pull the upset.

As much as Rutgers has been reliant on Corey Sanders to lead the offense, they’ve received notable contributions from Deshawn Freeman, Geo Baker, Eugene Omoruyi, and Mike Williams. All have been complimentary scorers who have made timely baskets the past two games. Look for Purdue to do everything they can to stop Sanders and double team him at times. Rutgers will need someone else to step up at some point in this game. While Rutgers has only taken 17 three-point attempts combined the past two nights, they’ve made 7 and in some big spots of the game. Issa Thiam hasn’t given Rutgers much the past two games and it’s imperative they get him going in some form on the offensive end. Of course, Corey Sanders needs to continue to play the role of Superman for Rutgers as well.

The biggest thing for Rutgers is to come out with energy and purpose. They have nothing to lose and have given off a calm confidence during the Big Ten Tournament. That needs to continue, but they also need to have urgency at the start. The chances for them to come back after falling behind by double digits to Purdue would be much less than it turned out to be against Indiana. They were down as much as 11 points to Purdue at the RAC last month, but were able to fight their way back into it behind a great shooting night. Rutgers was lights out last night, but they can’t expect to shoot over 60% again. They’ll need to be smart on the offensive end, share the basketball, make Purdue work in the halfcourt, and not settle for contested jumpers. Attack the rim and as they’ve done all week, convert their free throw attempts at the line.

In The Bonus

I REALLY HOPE Rutgers fans take advantage of this opportunity and pack the Garden tonight. This team thrives on the energy of its fans, something we’ve seen both at the RAC and here at the Garden. A raucous crowd of scarlet faithful, coupled with fans of Penn State and Ohio State, who play the game before and will likely be rooting for the underdog, could result in a electric environment. Rutgers needs a strong start out of the gates and to play loose, but smart. I think they will, but it’s going to be a major challenge to stay with Purdue for 40 minutes. It’s as intriguing a game for the Scarlet Knights in some time and it will be fascinating to see how they handle the moment. I believe they’ll put up a fight and give Purdue everything they can handle, but worry the toll it took on the team to get in this position will be their undoing the last five minutes of the game. I’m thinking a 10-12 point loss would be respectable and is what I think is most likely to happen. However, this team has proven that nothing is a given and to not give up on them. Tonight on the big stage at the Garden in front of the entire Big Ten, an opportunity to gain major respect is just 40 minutes away.

“That’s the heart of a lion. We aren’t done yet.” - Steve Pikiell

That’s all that needs to be said about their chances tonight.