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Scores Of Fouls Bog Down Boilers' Victory Over Rutgers

Stan Jastrzebski

Little seemed to worry Purdue coach Matt Painter Thursday.

He didn't look bothered that starting forward Vince Edwards was on the bench in street clothes nursing concussion-like symptoms.

Nor did he appear to fret when, just six minutes into the foul-fest that was Thursday's game, starting center A.J. Hammons picked up his second personal and headed back to the bench.

And, as it turned out, Painter had little to fret over in a 92-85 win against the Big Ten Conference's worst team -- except perhaps those fouls and the sloppiness they wrought.

All told, the teams combined for 50 infractions, resulting in a whopping 70 free throws -- at times slowing an already late-starting game to a crawl only insomniacs could love. And yet, despite the physicality, no one fouled out until Hammons collected his fifth personal with 3.8 seconds to go. Eight other players collected four fouls apiece.

Purdue led by as many as 20 a few minutes into the second half, but a run by the Scarlet Knights cut that gap in half and kept the contest briefly within reach for the visitors.

But with Hammons back on the court, Purdue kept balance by slicing into an overmatched Rutgers interior defense and reaping the benefits of the open outside shots that allowed. Still, the Scarlet Knights found ways to stay close.

When Purdue couldn't find ways to break a full-court press at the end of the game, a seemingly comfortable margin dwindled to as few as six. That angered junior forward Rafael Davis following the game.

"I think we should have lost, if you ask me," Davis said. "We played terrible the last four minutes. So I really don't think we got through it. I think we've got to be better than this."

Kendall Stephens made three three-pointers and Purdue hit seven of 15 on the night. All told, six Boilermakers scored in double figures, led by sophomore Basil Smotherman, who scored 17 points starting in place of Edwards. Five Scarlet Knights also tallied at least 10 points, with the team's leading scorer Myles Mack collecting 15 and forward Kadeem Jack adding 18.

But even though the game was one of the easier wins Purdue has had in conference play, it wasn't without some pain.

Smotherman took a forearm to the midsection and was knocked into the scorer's table. Isaac Haas was clipped above his right eye, bled, and required medical attention. And more than a few drives to the hoop resulted in a shooter being offered an impromptu seat on the floor under the basket.

Though at times it appeared the officials thought the game was a prize fight, the basketball game Purdue won was its nineteenth of the season, inching the team closer to the 20 that conventional wisdom dictates are often required for entry into the NCAA tournament.

To achieve that milestone, the Boilers will have to win one of their final three games -- either on the road at Michigan State or Ohio State or at home in the final regular season contest against Illinois, a team Purdue lost to in Champaign-Urbana earlier this season.