Last season, the Purdue Boilermakers were ranked No. 1 for the first time when they traveled to Rutgers, and a dramatic loss made their stay at the top of the poll a short one.
The Boilermakers could be No. 1 for the fourth straight week and are hoping to avoid another loss to Rutgers when the teams get together Monday night in West Lafayette, Ind.
Purdue (13-0, 2-0 Big Ten) was off to an 8-0 start when it was elevated to No. 1 in the Dec. 6, 2021 poll. On Dec. 9, the Scarlet Knights earned a 70-68 win in the raucous setting of Piscataway, N.J., when Ron Harper Jr. heaved in a halfcourt 3-pointer at the buzzer.
This year, Harper is on a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors and the Boilermakers are off to their first 13-0 start since opening 14-0 in 2009-10, which matched the 1993-94 school record for an unbeaten start.
Purdue began this season unranked, climbed to fourth, and was elevated to the top spot after its 65-62 overtime win at Nebraska on Dec. 10. As a top-ranked team, Purdue is 3-0, having followed up an eight-point win over Davidson with blowouts over New Orleans and Florida A&M.
In their nonconference finale Thursday, the Boilermakers cruised to an 82-49 rout of Florida A&M thanks to a big game from Brandon Newman and another double-double from Zach Edey, who sat out the New Orleans game with an illness.
Newman scored a season-high 18 points off the bench and contributed five blocks while shooting 7 of 13. Edey added 14 and 10 boards for his fifth straight double-double and 10th overall, the second-most nationally behind St. John’s Joel Soriano.
“Competition is going to get harder and teams are going to know what to scout,” Purdue’s Mason Gillis said. “There are going to be closer games down toward the end. We’ll find out who can play under pressure.”
Rutgers (9-4, 1-1) is playing a third straight conference game against a ranked team. The Scarlet Knights dominated then-No. 10 Indiana in the second half in a 63-48 win on Dec. 3 but lost on a controversial 3-pointer at the buzzer in a 67-66 loss at then-No. 25 Ohio State on Dec. 8.
The Scarlet Knights earned their first win over a top-ranked team thanks to Harper’s shot, and they own 14 wins over ranked teams under coach Steve Pikiell.
Since losing to Ohio State and then to Seton Hall on Dec. 11, the Scarlet Knights own three straight lopsided home victories over Wake Forest, Bucknell and Coppin State.
Clifford Omoruyi posted a second straight double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds Friday in a 90-57 rout of Coppin State as Rutgers handed out 30 assists and held its 10th opponent to a season low in points.
After reflecting on the latest defensive showing, Rutgers quickly shifted focus to visiting Purdue, where it took an 82-74 loss on Feb. 20 but also earned a 71-68 overtime win at Purdue on March 7, 2020.
“We’ll go to Purdue, a tough place to play. An undefeated team, there’s only a couple left in the country,” Pikiell said. “(They’re) well-coached and a real tough place to play, but we’re no strangers to tough schedules and tough starts to the season. We’ve got to go there and play great basketball.”
–Field Level Media