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No.1 Boilers fall to unranked Scarlet Knights

Casey Abbett
Shooting woes lead to Purdue’s first loss of the season.

Purdue’s first ever No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll will be short-lived after a heartbreaking loss to Rutgers, 70-68, Thursday night in New Jersey.

After a layup by senior forward Trevion Williams gave Purdue a 68-67 lead with three seconds to play, Rutgers’ Ron Harper Jr. dashed the Boilermakers’ hopes by scoring on a half-court heave at the buzzer. Harper Jr. finished with a game-high 30 points.

Purdue (8-1, 1-1 Big Ten) has had its struggles against Rutgers (5-4, 1-1) in recent years. This is the Boilers’ fourth loss in a row to the Scarlet Knights, all by a total of 17 points.

The Boilers led by ten points with 7:44 to play, but their defense could not close down the Scarlet Knights in the final minutes of a hostile environment.

“Coach (Gene) Keady used to always talk about, ‘When you go on the road, you have to be ten points better than somebody. If you allow it to be close, crazy things can happen,’” said coach Matt Painter after the game. “We allowed it to be close.”

For eight Purdue players this was their first true road game of their career after COVID caused arenas to be empty across the nation last season. That inexperience led to a lot of struggles, especially when it came to outside shooting.

“It's one of those things, when things aren’t quite going your way and you’re on the road it’s just harder.” said Painter, “Some of our guys just haven’t been through that.”

The Boilers came into Thursday's game shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc, good for second in the country, but made 7 of 26 (26.9%) three-point shots against Rutgers, their lowest percentage of the year.

One of the bright spots for the Boilers was their aggressiveness on the offensive glass. Purdue pulled down 16 offensive rebounds that turned into 22 second chance points.

Williams led Purdue with another double-double off the bench, scoring 21 and collecting 11 rebounds, six of them offensive. Sophomore Jaden Ivey had 15 on 5 of 9 shooting and also had three steals.

Purdue’s next opponent is North Carolina State in Brooklyn on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Invitational. Tip off in the Barclays Center is set for 2pm.