Smotherman's career night lifts Purdue over Rutgers 92-85
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Within the confines of the Purdue locker room, the Boilermakers are accustomed to hearing ''next man up'' when a starter is sidelined by an injury.
Sophomore forward Basil Smotherman was that next man up Thursday night after starting freshman forward Vince Edwards was hit in the head by an errant elbow during a rebounding drill in Monday's practice, leaving Edwards with concussion-like symptoms.
Smotherman scored a career-best 17 points and Rapheal Davis had 16 points and 10 rebounds, leading Purdue to a 92-85 victory against slumping Rutgers.
''You have to be ready at all times,'' said Smotherman, whose previous career high was 13 in a Jan. 24 victory against Iowa. ''Vince went down Monday, and coach moved me over to the (starting) team. Your focus has to change in that you have to be locked in from Monday until now. That is how it was. I got us started well. I started making plays and got into an offensive flow.''
Jon Octeus had 14 points, A.J. Hammons scored 13 and Dakota Mathias and Kendall Stephens each added 11 for Purdue. Kadeem Jack led Rutgers with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Davis was not happy with the way Purdue finished.
''I think we should have lost,'' Davis said. ''We played terrible in the last four minutes. We have to be better at finishing games. We can't go to Ohio State on Sunday and play like that in the second half and expect to win. We allowed 55 points in the second half.''
It was Boilermaker coach Matt Painter's 100th Big Ten victory, becoming the 20th to achieve that milestone in conference history. Painter is in his 10th season at Purdue, his alma mater.
Smotherman, a sophomore forward, was averaging 2.4 points.
''He brought us some energy,'' Painter said. ''He was able to make plays and got in transition a couple of times. He also knocked down a 3. You have to be ready when you get those opportunities. Sometimes it happens through injury. Basil did some really good things for us.''
During the first half, Smotherman was 4 of 4 from the field, including a 3-pointer, and was 2 of 2 from the line, helping the Boilermakers build a 46-30 lead through 20 minutes.
Smotherman sank a 3-pointer during a 9-2 first-half run, and Stephens made a 3-pointer and two free throws during an 11-0 burst that extended the Purdue lead to 32-16 with 6:28 left before intermission. Stephens had eight first-half points, as did starting guard Mathias.
With Purdue continuing to feature balanced scoring, the Boilermakers maintained a double-digit lead at 67-55 with 7:21 remaining in the game. An Octeus layup with 4:32 left pushed the Boilermakers' lead to 76-62.
The Boilermakers (19-9, 11-4) are tied with Maryland for second place in the Big Ten, two games behind league-leading Wisconsin. Purdue shot 60 percent (15 of 25) during the pivotal first half when Rutgers (10-19, 2-14) made only 10 of 30 shots (33.3 percent). The Scarlet Knights (10-19, 2-14) have lost 12 consecutive Big Ten games.
''We just didn't play well for the first 35 minutes,'' Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. ''We didn't make plays, we didn't rebound and we didn't make passes. Purdue did a good job in their offense with moving, cutting and finding their big man inside.
''I thought we controlled their bigs, but we could not get a handle on their speed and quickness in the half court. Smotherman was a key, but I just thought it was their overall movement. They have people who can find cutters, and they did a good job rebounding.''
When 7-footer Hammons was called for his second foul with 14:16 left in the first half, Smotherman, Stephens and Mathias picked up the scoring load when the big man went to the bench, making a collective 8 of 12 field goal attempts during the open 20 minutes.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have not won since defeating fourth-ranked Wisconsin 67-62 on Jan. 11 ... Rutgers fell to 0-8 in Big Ten road games with a March 7 date at Michigan remaining ... The Scarlet Knights entered ranked 14th and last in Big Ten scoring (58.1) and in field goal percentage (38.7).
Purdue: The Boilermakers finished February 5-1, improving to 8-1 since a Jan. 21 loss at Illinois ... Purdue completed a two-game season sweep of Rutgers, also winning 61-51 on Feb. 12 in New Jersey ... Hammons' field goal with 13:37 remaining in the second half gave the junior 1,001 career points, becoming the 16th active Big Ten players with at least 1,000.
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On the same night Purdue's Hammons passed 1,000 points, Rutgers' Jack also reached 1,000 with his final points of the night.
When asked about winning his 100th Big Ten game, Painter said it only is important in that it puts Purdue a step closer to the NCAA tournament, where the Boilermakers have not participated since 2012.
''What is important is that I want our upperclassmen - Octeus, Hammons and Davis - to get to the NCAA tourney,'' Painter said. ''They have worked so hard. That is why I am happy about winning tonight.''
Rutgers plays host to Maryland on Tuesday.
Purdue is at Ohio State on Sunday.