Rapid Reaction: Purdue's Road Woes Continue With Loss at Rutgers

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — The script just doesn't change for the Purdue Boilermakers. They simply cannot win a game on the road in the Big Ten.

They gave a game effort Tuesday night at No. 25 Rutgers, erasing most of a 17-point deficit before falling 70-63 at the Rutgers Athletic Center. It was Purdue's fifth straight loss in the league, still winless on the road, and it was the first loss ever to Rutgers since it joined the league six years ago.

The amazing Rutgers story continued. The Scarlet Knights, nationally ranked for consecutive weeks for the first time since 1979 and on the verge of breaking a 29-year drought of making the NCAA Tournament, won again at home. They are now 15-0 on the season and are 7-3 in the Big Ten, and 16-5 overall.

It was their sixth consecutive Big Ten home win, something they've never done before.

"It was typical Big Ten basketball,'' Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. "We haven't had any success against them before, so this was a nice barrier to break through tonight.''

Purdue, which fell to 11-10 overall and 4-6 in the league, trailed by as much as 17 points, but kept chipping away at the lead little by little throughout the second half. Purdue got to the final media timeout trailing by six at 62-56. 

They ran a nice play out of the timeout and Matt Haarms scored on a dunk to make it a 4-point game. They got another stop and Evan Boudreaux made one of two free throws to get it to 62-59.

Haarms, who played only 13 minutes because of foul trouble, then fouled out with 1:49 to go and Caleb McConnell made both foul shots. Trevion Williams got a good look inside for Purdue but missed, and even though the Boilermakers got the ball back, they couldn't convert after a turnover.

Rutgers didn't have a field goal in the final six minutes, so Purdue kept getting chances. Hunter scored to make it 64-61 with 29.6 seconds to go, and then it looked like Purdue had forced a turnover while pressing on the inbounds, but a foul was called on Jahaad Proctor instead. McConnell made both free throws.

Hunter scored quickly again, and Purdue was forced to foul again. Ron Harper Jr. stepped up and made both free throws again.

Rutgers benefited from a huge discrepency at the free throw line. Rutgers made 25 of 36 free throws on the night while Purdue was just 7-for-10.

The road hasn't been kind to Purdue so far this season, suffering league losses at Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan and Maryland. Getting off to poor starts has been a common theme, and the same thing happened again Tuesday night. Midway through the first half, Rutgers went on an 18-6 run that helped them build a 16-point lead at 34-18.

It was another tough shooting night for the Boilermakers. Starting guards Nojel Eastern  and Sasha Stefanovic, for instance, were just 1-for-8 shooting combined on the night and had just two points from Eastern.

Purdue was looking for its first win on the road against a nationally-ranked team since Feb. 4, 2017, when they beat then No. 17 Maryland. The Boilermakers have now lost eight straight games since that victory.

Rutgers had won only 11 of 45 Big Ten home games before this season since joining the league in 2014, so this turnaround at home as been dramatic. The Scarlet Knights, who haven't make the NCAA Tournament since 1991, are set to change that.

Proctor had a big night off the bench for Purdue, scoring 19 points. Williams added 17. the Boilermakers are back in action Saturday night at Northwestern. 

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