Meet The Opponent: No. 25 Rutgers Still Perfect at Home

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — This is a huge week for Purdue, because the Boilermakers have two road games and they still haven't won a Big Ten game yet away from Mackey Arena.

But it's not going to be easy for Purdue, 0-4 so far on the road so far in the league. The road trip starts Tuesday night at No. 25-ranked Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights, just a game out of first place in the Big Ten, are perfect at home this season, winning all 14 games at the Rutgers Athletic Center, including five league games.

Rutgers hasn't played in the NCAA Tournament since 1991, but that looks like it's about to change this year. Coach Steve Pikiell has them playing at a high level, especially at home.

"They've come into our league and switched coaches, and he's established a culture and a mind set of playing hard and defending, very similar to when he was at Stony Brook and an assistant at UConn,'' Purdue coach Matt Painter said of Pikiell. "That's what you have to be able to do (to have success in the Big Ten).

Here are the particulars on Tuesday's game:

  • Who: Purdue Boilermakers (11-9, 4-5 in the Big Ten) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (15-5, 6-3 in the Big Ten)
  • When:  p.m. ET, Tuesday, Jan. 28
  • Where: Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway, N.J. 
  • Latest Line: Rutgers is a 3-point favorite as of Tuesday afternoon, according to VegasInsider.com
  • Rankings: Rutgers is ranked No. 25 in both the Associated Press poll or Coaches poll.  Purdue is receiving votes in the AP poll, and would be ranked No. 36. 
  • Kenpom.com rankings: Purdue is ranked No. 23. moving up eight spots after beating Wisconsin last Friday. Rutgers is No. 25. 
  • TV: Big Ten Network
  • Announcers: Dave Revsine and Seth Davis
  • Radio: Purdue Radio Network
  • Announcers: Larry Clisby, Rob Blackman, Ralph Taylor

Here are three things to know about Rutgers:

1. Home court a true advantage 

Rutgers will have its fifth sellout of the season on Tuesday night, a school record, as the students and locals of firmly embraced this team. "They play very hard,'' Painter said, and that's why they've become fan favorites in New Jersey.

For the Scarlet Knights, they are trying to accomplish several things on Tuesday night with a win. First off, they've never beaten Purdue since joining the Big Ten, losing all five games. They'd like to break that mark. With a win, they'd also be four games over .500 in the Big Ten, also something they've never done — and haven't done in any league, in fact, since 1999. They desperately want to give their fans plenty to cheer about. Purdue wants to change that.

"There's nothing harder to get than a Big Ten road win, and you can't afford any slip-ups, even for four or five minutes. You've got to be there all 40 minutes,'' Purdue center Matt Haarms said. "It's important to have that energy early and play through any adversity.''

2. A well-rounded lineup that's punishing physically

Rutgers is big and thick along the front line, so Purdue's big men are in for a big challenge. They will guard you hard, and crash the boards on both sides of the court. Rutgers is 12th nationally in field goal percentage defense (37.2), 16th in scoring defense (60.7) and in rebounding (40.95), and 17th in rebound margin (plus-7.7).

"Playing against Rutgers a few times already in my career here, they always seem to throw about six big guys at you, and even their guards are big,'' Haarms said. "They have a 6-7 point guard too, and they all rebound. They're really physical and they're strong. We'll have to really battle.'' 

3. Perfect at home, but not overwhelming

Rutgers keeps winning at home, but it's not like they've been blowing people out in the Big Ten. Four of their five Big Ten wins have been by single digits, and three of those games were within one possession in the final minute.

So if Purdue plays well, it can win there. 

"If we weren't capable of beating quality teams, then we wouldn't be beating quality teams,'' Painter said, who clearly considers Rutgers a quality team. "We've beaten five teams that are in the NCAA Tournament or really close to the NCAA Tournament, so why can't we double that by year's end? If we have 10 wins by the end of the season, that would give us a pretty good chance to be in the tournament.''

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