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Rutgers at No. 5 Purdue Game Preview

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Includes how to watch, stats, keys to victory and more.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers (16-9; 10-5) at No. 5 Purdue (23-4; 12-4)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana (Capacity 14,240)

Tip-off: Sunday, February 20 at 5:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1 - Kevin Kugler and Steve Lavin

Stream: FOX Sports Live

Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM, XM 383 - Jerry Recco and Austin Johnson; WRSU 88.7 FM

NET Rankings: Rutgers No. 75; Purdue No. 10 (Quad 1 opponent)

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 71, four spots better following a 70-59 victory over No. 15 Illinois on Wednesday. Purdue - No. 13, two spots worse following a 70-64 win over No. 59 Northwestern on Wednesday.

Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 106.4 (113th) Defense 95.2 (39th); Purdue - Offense 123.2 (1st) Defense 99.3 (102nd)

KenPom Prediction: Purdue 76 Rutgers 65; Rutgers is given a 15% chance to win.

OTB Guide to KenPom

Vegas Line: Purdue -12.5

Series History: Purdue leads the all-time series 12-6 but Rutgers has won the last four games these two teams have played, including the highest ranked win in school history on December 9, 2021 behind Ron Harper Jr.’s buzzer beater from halfcourt. The last time the Boilermakers beat the Scarlet Knights was a 35 point win at Mackey Arena on January 15, 2019.

Key Contributors

Purdue: 6’4” sophomore Jaden Ivey - 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steal, 38.4% 3-pt FG; 7’4” sophomore Zach Edey - 14.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 blocks, 67.8% FG; 6’10” senior Trevion Williams - 12.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steal, 55.3% FG; 6’5” senior Sasha Stefanovic - 11.6 points, 3.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 40.5% 3-pt FG; 6’6” sophomore Mason Gillis - 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 52.6% FG, 46.9% 3-pt FG; 6’4” senior Eric Hunter Jr. - 5.5 points, 1.8 assists, 1.7 rebounds, 44.7% 3-pt FG; 6’1” junior Isaiah Thompson - 5.2 points, 1.3 assists, 1.1 rebounds, 42.5% 3-pt FG; 6’5” sophomore Brandon Newman - 5.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 32.5% 3-pt FG; 6’10” freshman Caleb Furst - 4.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 57.5% FG; 6’6” sophomore Ethan Morton - 2.8 points, 1.6 assists, 1.3 rebounds

Rutgers: 6’6” senior Ron Harper Jr. - 15.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 41.1% 3-pt FG; 6’4” redshirt senior Geo Baker - 12.2 points, 4.1 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 33.3% 3-pt FG; 6’11” sophomore Cliff Omoruyi - 11.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 block, 60.8% FG; 6’6” junior Paul Mulcahy - 9.1 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 34.4% 3-pt FG; 6’7” senior Caleb McConnell - 6.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 2.2 assists, 27.9% 3-pt FG; 6’6” sophomore Aundre Hyatt - 4.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 25.0% 3-pt FG; 6’8” Jaden Jones - 3.6 points, 1.2 rebounds; 6’7” sophomore Mawot Mag - 3.2 points, 2.1 rebounds; 6’10 sophomore Dean Reiber - 3.0 points, 1.3 rebounds, 55.1% FG; 6’8” senior Ralph Gonzales-Agee - 2.1 points, 1.1 rebounds; 6’8” sophomore Oskar Palmquist - 1.5 points, 5-11 3-pt FG; 6’2” freshman Jalen Miller - 0.9 points

About Purdue

The Boilermakers have won eight of their last nine games, are 14-1 at home this season and are currently in first place in the Big Ten standings. They are 8-3 against KenPom Top 50 opponents and 12-4 against Top 100 foes.

Purdue is the most efficient offensive team in the country and average 82.1 points per game. They’re a fantastic shooting team that is averaging 56.6% from two-point range (12th), 40.4% from three-point range (3rd) but are just average from the foul line at 70.4% (209th).

Matt Painter’s team has tremendous size and dominate on the glass. They have an offensive rebounding rate of 35.3% (14th) and are limiting opponents to just 23.3% (25th). The Boilermakers also take care of the basketball with just a 17.1% turnover rate (81st) and share the game well with a 60.1% assist rate (18th).

Another strength is getting to the foul line and limiting opponents from doing the same. They have a free throw rate of 35.6% (52nd) and allow foes to get there just 21.7% of the time (12th).

The one glaring weakness they have is failing to force takeaways as they have a defensive turnover rate of just 14.7% (340th). Overall, they’re an average defensive team that allows opponents to shoot 48.5% from two-point range (126th) and 33.9% from three-point range (188th). Opponents average 68.7 points per game.

In Big Ten play, Purdue is 1st in offensive efficiency and 10th in defensive efficiency. They lead the league in effective field goal percentage, two-point shooting percentage, three-point shooting percentage, offensive rebounding rate and free throw rate. They are just 10th in offensive turnover rate and 14th in free throw shooting percentage. Defensively, they allow the lowest opponent offensive rebounding rate in conference play and are fourth in defensive free throw rate.

Jaden Ivey is a versatile player who is a legitimate conference player of the year candidate, Zach Edey is a skilled big man, Sasha Stefanoivc is an assassin from behind the arc and guard play overall is a major strength with multiple shooters on this team. The quality of depth and size that Purdue has is unmatched in the Big Ten and arguably in the country.aq

Rutgers Notes

For the season, the Scarlet Knights are averaging 68.4 points per game and allowing 64.6 points per contest.....RU is shooting only 48.5% from two-point range (224th), 34.1% from three-point range (146th) and 70.9% from the foul line (194th)......They are ranked 14th nationally in assist rate at 61.5%, 25th in two-point defense in holding opponents to 45.4% shooting, 50th in defensive block rate at 12.4% and 54th in defensive steal rate at 11.2%.......Rutgers is 8th in offensive efficiency and 3rd in defensive efficiency in Big Ten play so far this season......RU is 3rd from three-point range at 38.2% shooting, 4th in offensive rebounding rate at 29.7% and 5th in free throw shooting at 74.4% in league play........They are in the top four in five of eight defensive categories in Big Ten play including 1st in steal rate, 3rd in block rate, turnover rate and free throw rate, while 4th in holding opponents to 47.6% in two-point shooting.....They’ve defeated four ranked foes in consecutive games for the first time in program history and are the first unranked team to achieve that in college basketball history……A win over Purdue on Sunday would put them half a game behind the Boilermakers while owning the head to head tiebreaker over them.

Keys To Victory

If you look back at the box score of the first meeting in which Rutgers won on a halfcourt buzzer beater by Ron Harper Jr., it’s amazing they actually won that game. The Boilermakers were +8 on the boards, +4 turnover margin, held a 36-28 advantage with points in the paint, held a 22-4 advantage in second chance points, held a 17-4 advantage in points off of turnovers and outscored the RU bench 31-5. Add in the fact that Geo Baker did not play due injury and it’s incredible they won. The Scarlet Knights did shoot much better from the floor (52.1% vs. 41.0%) and held the Boilermakers to a poor shooting night from three-point range (7-26 26.9%) but they really did overcome so much to win. It’s a formula unlikely to result in another victory on Sunday at Mackey Arena.

The size differential makes this a compelling matchup as Purdue has the advantage inside and Rutgers has the advantage along the perimeter. Trevion Williams and Zach Edey dominated in the first meeting, but Cliff Omoruyi is a much different player now. In addition, Steve Pikiell’s willingness to mix up looks defensively and implement fullcourt pressure as well as some zone make it likely the approach will be different in this meeting.

Whatever look they give defensively, Rutgers has to have awareness of the shooters on the floor and close out on shots from behind the arc. Any defensive breakdowns will likely prove costly. They also can’t allow Purdue second chance scoring opportunities so defensive rebounding needs to be a top priority and something all five players on the floor are actively pursuing.

Another key is for Rutgers to continue to score in transition as they’ve dominated in this area during the four game winning streak over ranked foes with an unthinkable 52-7 advantage with fast break points. This has been a major development and not only have they been able to run off of turnovers but from defensive rebounds as well. In order to counter Purdue’s size inside, RU needs to get out on the break and negate the advantage they’ll have in the halfcourt.

Sharing the basketball, good spacing and making the extra pass are essential for Rutgers to get good looks at the basket, including from behind the arc. Falling into iso ball and forcing contested shots is a recipe for disaster. Purdue isn’t a great defensive team, but they don’t foul a lot so Rutgers needs to generate offense by having a good shooting night as well as second chance scoring and points off of turnovers.

The big unknown is whether Ron Harper Jr. will play and even if he does, how effective he will be. His hand injury against Illinois has him listed as day-to-day so there should be some optimism that he will suit up. Even if he does, how Paul Mulcahy, Cliff Omoruyi and Caleb McConnell play might have the most impact on the outcome. Can Mulcahy be successful getting into the lane for mid-range shots and finding teammates open? Can Cliff hold up against the trees of Purdue and assert his athleticism on both ends of the floor? Can McConnell limit Ivey and Stefanovic offensively? As much as Geo Baker and Ron need to score, those are hugely important questions as well. Also keep an eye out for Mawot Mag, who scored 12 points in the first meeting and is due an impact game off the bench.

The biggest contrast with these teams is that Purdue has struggled in its last three games while Rutgers is playing its best basketball of the season. The last time the Boilermakers played at home they escaped with a 1 point win over Maryland. Expect the home crowd to be especially fired up for place that’s always hard to play in anyway. Believe it or not, this has turned into a statement game for the No. 5 team in the land due to their recent history against Rutgers and how well the Scarlet Knights have been playing. Confidence is at an all-time high for Pikiell’s team. They’ve found their identity and they’ll believe they can win at Mackey as they did in their last trip to end the 2020 regular season with a signature victory.

Music Selection

For this game, I chose the same song I selected for the first meeting which was “Mess I Made” by Raised on TV.

As exciting as this four game winning streak has been and now seeing Rutgers in NCAA Tournament projections, returning to March Madness is far from certain. There is still work to be done and Purdue is the most difficult game left on the schedule. However, they also provide a tremendous opportunity to improve their resume dramatically and continue to improve national perception. A win would also make Rutgers a legitimate contender to win the regular season Big Ten title. That seemed like an impossible dream just a month ago, but a victory on Sunday night would make it a real possibility.

The mess they made in November still lingers but Rutgers plays its best basketball when their backs are against the wall. As well as they’ve played, not many will expect them to win this game and that’s just the way they like it. This team knows who they are now and they play harder than any team in the Big Ten. They’ll believe they can win and it’s up to Purdue to stop them. Whatever you do, don’t bet against this team.