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Underdogs: Thoughts on a 65-64 upset of Purdue

Rutgers now holds the national win of the year.

Unfortunately, I’m writing this with a heavy heart after seeing the scary sight on the field of the Bengals vs. Bills game as Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field. It’s just a heartbreaking scene for everyone and is far more important than any basketball game. I’m praying for him and his family.

Thoughts on a bittersweet night:

Rutgers fans... they’ve done it again. For the second year in a row, Rutgers upset number-one Purdue, this time on the road.

Win of the Year: Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Rutgers just beat the number-one team in the country. Two years in a row. How crazy is that? This is a resume-defining win for the Scarlet Knights. A Rutgers squad that has historically struggled on the road fought through tons of adversity in one of the toughest arenas in the country and came out on top. With the deck stacked against them, Rutgers eeked out another program-changing win.

The Referees: I don’t like to blame things on officiating, but the refereeing today was maddening. Fouls were 24-11 in Purdue's favor and the Boilermakers went to the line 28 times. There were countless times when I was left dumbfounded on my couch trying to understand the calls. Almost every rotation player had 3 or more fouls tonight and Purdue was playing just as physically. While it often feels like the refs are rooting against Rutgers, today felt like the worst I’ve seen. Regardless, Rutgers found a way.

Paul Mulcahy & Cam Spencer: The Rutgers backcourt duo willed this team to victory. Paul scored all 7 points leading up to the game-winning three by Spencer. Mulcahy finished with 16 pts, 8 reb, 6 ast, and 4 stl, and Cam Spencer did his best Ron Harper Jr. impression with a game-winning 3 (although nothing will be better than RHJ’s shot of the year last season). Mulcahy willed the team to victory down the stretch and took control of the game late. It was a gutsy performance from the gutsiest of players. Many wondered at the beginning of the season who would take the clutch shots for Rutgers. Cam Spencer answered those questions tonight.

Defense Wins: Rutgers played their game tonight. Purdue shot below 40% from the field, turned the ball over 13 times, and the Scarlet Knights stole the ball 9 times. The final score was in the 60s and Rutgers never let Purdue turn this game into a shootout. When you match up the 5th best offense with the 3rd best defense something has to give. Rutgers forced a low-scoring, gritty game that benefitted their style of play and not Purdue’s. At the end of the day, the Boilermakers were held below Pikiell’s speed limit of 65.

Past Rutgers Teams Don’t Win This Game: This team had the experience to go into Mackey and win this game. This is not the same team that’s never won more than 4 road wins in Big Ten play. Rutgers also went 9-11 from the line, and if Rutgers hadn’t shot 80% from the line today they don’t win this game. The depth of this team also showed as Rutgers got a sizable contribution from its reserves. Hyatt finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds, and the bench as a whole contributed 15 points.

A quick congratulations to coach Pikiell as he earned his 300th career win tonight.

Enjoy the win tonight Rutgers fans, but don’t lose sight of what’s important in life. Damar Hamlin could’ve been anyone of your friends or family. His health and safety is much more important than our entertainment and all of my prayers are first and foremost directed at him.