A casual fan would look at this several times. A Rutgers fan will never tire of seeing it. Maybe get a still picture framed for posterity. Ron Harper Jr.’s last second shot just inside half court was the game winner that took down number one Purdue on Thursday. Rutgers’ 70-68 victory at Jersey Mike’s Arena improved the Scarlet Knights to 5-4 while the Boilermakers suffered their first loss of the campaign, exiting the arena at 8-1. Matt Painter’s club had just ascended to number one in the polls for the first time in school history. That ‘reign’ proved to be short lived. The numbers:
Possessions- 65 for a grind it out affair. Little surprise here.
Offensive efficiency- Rutgers 108, Purdue 105 both slightly above average on the offensive end. Not so on defense.
eFG pct- Rutgers 59%, Purdue 47%. Interestingly, both teams hit 18 two pointers and 7 from three point land. Big difference was Purdue going 7 of 26 for 27% while the Scarlet Knights were 7 of 15 for 50%.
FT rate- Rutgers 38%, Purdue 26%- Steve Pikiell’s group did a good job getting to the line while keeping the opposition off it.
Offensive rebounding percentage- Purdue 42%, Rutgers 21%. A major reason the Boilers attempted 13 more (61 to 48) field goals than Rutgers. A 42% figure is an elite figure but one you do not want your opposition to have.
Turnover pct.- Purdue 17%, Rutgers 23%. You want to keep that figure under 20%. Score another advantage for Purdue as they did the job on their offensive end while Rutgers struggled in that department on their end.
Rutgers trailed 57-47 with 8:07 to play. At that point Kenpom figured the Scarlet Knights had a minimum win probability of 2.5%.
Harper Jr. was the Kenpom game MVP. If he wasn’t chosen an investigation would have been warranted. Harper Jr. finished with a career high 30 points while adding 10 boards. Trevion Williams came off the bench to pace Purdue with 21 points. Williams had given the Boilermakers the lead , ultimately their last, on a layup with 4 seconds remaining.
Studying the rebounding and turnover disparity, Purdue appeared to be in the driver;s seat. The box score and metrics do not measure determination and resolve. On this evening Rutgers had both in a big way, especially fighting back from a double digit deficit with less than ten minute to play. "We just kept hanging around, fighting," Pikiell said following the victory.
The ghosts of DePaul, Lafayette and UMass may have been exorcised (at least for now) by a gut check performance punctuated by a shot for the ages. No time to rest on their laurels. The Scarlet Knights have another imposing task. A trip up the turnpike to the Prudential Center awaits. Sunday is a rivalry meeting with a talented Seton Hall team that knocked off top ten Texas also on Thursday. How they come out and respond to this challenge will tell us even more about this Rutgers team.
"After tonight Ron Harper Jr. should never have to pay for a Jersey Mike’s sandwich" - Otis Livingston on CBS Sports.