Rutgers (8-7; 1-3) At Purdue (10-6; 3-2)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana
Tip-off: Tuesday, January 15th at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Dave Revsine & Robbie Hummel
Radio: Live Listen - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 384 - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Matt Howe & Sam Marsdale
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #110; Purdue #16
(Rutgers has moved back 4 spots since the loss to Minnesota)
KenPom Prediction: Purdue 75 Rutgers 62; Rutgers has an 12% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Purdue -14
Series History: Purdue leads all-time 11-1, including an 82-75 victory last season in the Big Ten Quarterfinals
SB Nation Purdue site: Hammer & Rails
Head coach Matt Painter is in his 14th season at the helm of the Boilermakers, who are undefeated at home this season. They own six KenPom Top 100 wins (#14 Wisconsin, #19 Maryland, #34 Iowa, #79 Davidson, #92 Ball State, #96 Belmont) and five of its losses are against KenPom Top 30 teams (#3 Michigan State, #6 Michigan, #7 Virginia Tech, #26 Florida State, #29 Texas). Purdue enters this game winners in four of its last five games and beat the Badgers on the road last Friday.
Purdue averages 78 points a game and is shooting 45.0% from the floor, 36.6% from three-point range and 71.3% from the free throw line. They are once again very good offensively, coming into this game with a efficiency rating of 118.3, which is 5th best in Division I. They have a balanced attack with seven players having an offensive rating of 110 or better. The Boilermakers have committed 10 or less turnovers in seven straight games. The team’s biggest issue has been defense, as they have an efficiency rating of 76th nationally and second to last in Big Ten play.
6’1” junior Carsen Edwards - 25.3 points, 3.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals
6’6” senior Ryan Cline - 12.6 points, 3.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds
6’6” sophomore Nojel Eastern - 6.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals
7’3” sophomore Matt Haarms - 7.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
6’8” junior Evan Boudreaux - 7.5 points, 4.4 rebounds
6’6” senior Grady Eifert - 4.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists
6’9” freshman Aaron Wheeler - 4.7 points, 3.3 rebounds
Eugene Omoruyi suffered a dislocated kneecap in the win over Ohio State last Wednesday, which is the same injury he suffered last season. He avoided major injury, but the timeline for his return has yet to be announced, although it will likely be a few weeks. In addition, Caleb McConnell did not play the second half against Minnesota on Saturday. No word on the injury he suffered when he hit the floor late in the first half. His status was announced late morning:
Caleb McConnell dealing with a groin injury from Saturday’s game against Minnesota. His status is day-to-day and will be a game time decision tonight. #RHoops— Aaron Breitman (@aaron_breitman) January 15, 2019
If he doesn’t play, Rutgers will have just eight scholarship players available for this game.
For Purdue, they look to be down a key big man:
Purdue center Evan Boudreaux (groin) is improving, but coach Matt Painter doesn’t believe he’ll be available for Tuesday’s game vs. Rutgers. “Hopefully we can have him for Saturday,” Painter said.— Mike DeFabo (@MikeDeFabo) January 14, 2019
6’9” freshman Trevion Williams has averaged 11 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in 23 minutes the past two games stepping up for Boudreaux.
Keys To Victory
More Shaq Carter & Myles Johnson On Offense
Rutgers has finally looked to get the ball into the post on a regular basis in its halfcourt sets the past two games and it’s yielded positive results. Myles Johnson and Shaq Carter combined for 21 points on 50% shooting against a formidable frontcourt of Minnesota. My issue was and has been the fact that Carter isn’t as much of a focal point on offense as he should be. He is the most efficient offensive player on the roster (126.1 offensive rating) and has a knack for finishing in traffic around the rim. Carter is a strong body who plays under control and doesn’t take bad shots. Johnson also looked skilled in the paint against Minnesota and has really developed. I think Rutgers needs to attack the paint against Purdue by getting the ball in the hands of their two big men. Johnson is an excellent passer and after he establishes a post presence, he has the ability to find players who are either cutting or open on the wing. More on that in a moment.
Purdue’s defense is just 13th in Big Ten play so far this season, but they have the best defensive turnover rate in league action at 22.2%. Amazingly, Rutgers has the lowest offensive turnover rate at 14.2% in Big Ten play, but they will be tested to maintain that high level tonight. Montez Mathis and Ron Harper Jr. both have turnover rates less than 15% and need to continue to attack the rim under control, while Geo Baker will likely need to shoulder the load of running the offense if McConnell doesn’t play.
As mentioned above, Purdue also takes care of the ball extremely well. Rutgers currently has the worst defensive rating in Big Ten play and are only 13th in defensive turnover rate. That’s not a good trend entering this game, but the biggest key for Rutgers is not allowing open three-pointers for Purdue. They take 29 shots per contest from behind the arc and can easily put this game out of reach with a flurry from three-point range. It’s also why Rutgers can’t afford to commit a lot of turnovers, as the Boilermakers love finding the open shooter in transition.
Rutgers has held their own on the boards against the Big Ten so far and that needs to continue. They are only -2 in rebounding margin in five conference games so far and outworked Wisconsin and Minnesota on the glass. Purdue is surrendering the highest offensive rebound rate from opponents in Big Ten play. Rutgers hasn’t rebounded the offensive glass nearly as well in conference play as they did in non-conference play, but tonight it’s a clear opportunity to gain an edge against Purdue. Defensively, Rutgers needs to limit second chance scoring opportunities, as well as Purdue rebounding missed shots and finding an open shooter on the perimeter.
With Omoruyi out, Rutgers is missing it’s most vocal leader on the court. It showed in the loss to Minnesota, as they became a bit unglued in the second half. They need to maintain discipline on both ends of the floor and stay together during runs by the opponent, especially on the road. Rutgers lost by a combined 50 points the past two seasons in trips to West Lafayette, so in order to keep this one close they need to maintain its composure and not lose focus. Baker has a heavy burden on the court already, but he really needs to be in everyone’s ear early and often in this game. The freshman need to show maturity and not let their emotions get the best of them.
Handle The Zone
Rutgers has had some success playing a 2-3 zone on defense the past two games, but haven’t seen much played against them. Purdue does play some zone and will likely try to force Rutgers to start high in their halfcourt sets with it. This where someone like Myles Johnson can be effective. He is a big target, holds the ball high, and is an excellent passer. He also can handle the ball so his recent aggressiveness on offense should give confidence he can give the Purdue zone trouble. Rutgers cannot settle for long jump shots or they will wilt quickly. Mathis and Harper Jr. can be dangerous along the baseline as well. Don’t get stagnant on offense against the zone, be patient and rotate the ball around the perimeter to make Purdue work.
I appreciate everyone who reads these game previews and this is my fourth season of covering Rutgers men’s basketball for On The Banks. We are getting into the heart of winter and heart of the Big Ten schedule. It’s not easy being a Rutgers fan for most sports, but none is harder than for men’s hoops (you can try to argue this point with me, but I don’t think its debatable.) As reader Wordshark kindly wrote in the comment section of the Minnesota preview, “come for the game preview, stay for the Pearl Jam.” So my aim is to end each game preview moving forward with a live rendition of a Pearl Jam song that is appropriate with the current state of the team. It’s my favorite band and also Dave White’s too, so hopefully most of our readers will like this new feature as much as we do.
One of my favorite Pearl Jam songs is Breath, which was released on the 1992 soundtrack for the movie Singles and one they rarely play live. Here is a classic from 1998 at Madison Square Garden, which was also the first Pearl Jam concert I ever attended. The lyric “take a warm breath and a scream” seemed appropriate for the current weather, the recent lack of success on the road for Rutgers in Big Ten play (1-37), and the frustrations we’ve had with officiating and injuries this season. Enjoy!