Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Purdue Boilermakers Pick & Prediction JANUARY 28th 2024

Rutgers has not been a troublesome opponent for most Big Ten teams this year, but No. 2 Purdue surely won’t take the Scarlet Knights lightly.

Something unexpected often seems to happen when Purdue and Rutgers get together, as they will Sunday afternoon in Piscataway, N.J.

Purdue (18-2, 7-2 Big Ten) has been one of the best regular-season teams in college basketball for several years, yet Rutgers (10-8, 2-5) has won five of the teams’ past seven meetings.

The biggest surprise came early in the 2021-22 season, when then-No. 1 Purdue visited Rutgers and the Scarlet Knights pulled off a 70-68 stunner on Ron Harper Jr.’s buzzer-beater from near halfcourt. It marked Rutgers’ first win over a top-ranked team in program history.

Last season, Rutgers pulled off the feat again, but on the road. The Scarlet Knights shocked No. 1 Purdue 65-64 in West Lafayette, Ind.

After that game, Purdue coach Matt Painter praised Rutgers’ toughness in a unique way.

“If we were going to war, we’d stop by New Jersey and pick them up, you know what I mean?” Painter said. “Those cats, they play for keeps.”

The Boilermakers got revenge in the Big Ten quarterfinals, holding off the Scarlet Knights 70-65. But Purdue has lost three straight road games at Rutgers, where students have made the 8,000-seat arena a loud and challenging place to play.

“We need to be Rutgers at its finest,” coach Steve Pikiell said this week. “… First of all, it’s going to be a great basketball game. They all are. You get to see the best player in the country (Zach Edey) too. You don’t get that opportunity very often.”

Purdue’s only blemishes this season came on the road at Northwestern and Nebraska. The Boilermakers have won four straight and 11 of 12, most recently a 99-67 annihilation of Michigan.

While Edey continues to anchor Purdue with his 22.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, Southern Illinois transfer Lance Jones has bolstered the backcourt. Jones made 5 of 9 3-point attempts to score a game-high 24 points against Michigan, and his 12.5 points per game rank second on the team.

“He’s been great. He has positive energy, he’s excited every day to practice and he’s made us a better basketball team,” Painter said postgame on NBC.

Pikiell called Jones an “elite defender” and praised his consistency.

“They still have (Mason) Gillis and they got (Fletcher) Loyer and they got guys that have experienced a lot. It’s a very difficult team to prepare for,” Pikiell said.

Rutgers has lost four of six to start January and got blown out in the final 10 minutes of last Sunday’s 86-63 defeat at then-No. 14 Illinois. Clifford Omoruyi’s dunk brought Rutgers within four points with 10:20 to go before the Fighting Illini ended the game with a 31-12 run.

Omoruyi had 22 points, his second-best output of the season, and he will be crucial matching up against Edey this Sunday.

Aundre Hyatt leads Rutgers with 12.2 points per game. Omoruyi adds 10.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks, the latter number ranking second in the country.

–Field Level Media

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