For the first time in program history, Purdue will play a game as the top-ranked team in the nation. The Boilermakers moved to No. 1 after winning their Big Ten opener against Iowa on Friday, improving to 8-0 on the year.
Purdue Boilermakers vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Thursday, December 09, 2021 – 07:00 PM EST at Jersey Mike’s Arena
Purdue will remain in the New York City area through the weekend and face NC State in Brooklyn on Sunday. The Boilers then return to the Midwest for a game against Butler, closing a tough five-game stretch that started with the ACC/Big Ten Classic against Florida State.
Rutgers will host the Boilermakers and try to snap out of an early-season slump. The Scarlet Knights have lost three of their last four, including an 86-51 loss at Illinois in their Big Ten opener last time out that dropped Rutgers to 4-4.
Tough Inside and Out
Purdue is 8-0 for the first time in five years and will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak to Rutgers. They've been dominant in the early going, trailing for a total of just over 27 minutes in the eight games combined, with nearly 20 minutes of that coming in a win over Villanova.
The Boilermakers have two excellent big men in Zach Edey and senior Trevion Williams. Defenses can’t collapse to help out in the paint, however, because eight of the 10 Boilermakers who play regularly shoot at least 40 percent from the three-point line, including Williams.
They have two of the best big guys in the country. They surround them with all good shooters,” said Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell. “They are the second-best three-point shooting team in the country right now. Obviously, you have a 7-foot-3 guy in the post and then you have an All-American who comes off the bench.
They obviously got really good talent and they can beat you from the perimeter and around the basket. They are well-coached and have as good of depth as maybe anybody in the country; the deepest team we will probably face.”
Unexpected Rough Start
Rutgers entered the season looking to build on last year’s NCAA Tournament appearance with what was thought to be Pikiell’s most talented team. The Knights suffered three straight losses to DePaul, Lafayette and UMass by a total of seven points, however, and now look to rebuild their postseason hopes with back-to-back games against the Boilermakers and at Seton Hall on Sunday.
Rutgers will face this key stretch of the season potentially short-handed. Fifth-year guard Geo Baker has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury and is day-to-day. He worked out with a trainer on Monday, which was his first physical activity since getting hurt.
The team is also getting hit with a non-COVID virus that carries flu-like symptoms. Pikiell didn’t specify who has been laid low or if anyone will miss the Purdue game, but the team is showing the stress of being sick.
“A couple of them were young guys, a couple of them were experienced guys ... it’s a bit of everybody,” he said. “Every day, it’s been another guy ... We’re in hyper-alert over the whole thing. Guys just came down with it, not feeling well and it trickled to another couple of guys and today, another couple more.
"We changed our practice plan already a few times and today, whoever is there, we’ll work with. We just got to be very careful moving forward here.”
Rutgers is one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, ranking No. 280 or worse in 2-point, 3-point and free throw accuracy. They’ve also struggled with foul trouble on defense at times, including surrendering 33 free throws to DePaul and allowing UMass to hit 16-of-32 from three.
Purdue is the toughest offense the Knights have faced by far, and Rutgers will be slowed by injury and illness. This will be Purdue’s first road game at a full arena since pre-pandemic, and only a handful of Boilermakers have faced that environment.
That could allow the Knights to keep things close, but look for Purdue to still get the road cover for your NCAAB pick tonight.
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