by Ryan Berry & Andrew Atchison | staff writers
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN-For the first three-fourths of Thursday night’s contest, it looked as if Purdue would cruise to an easy victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
The end result was not as easy as anticipated.
Right from the start, the Boilermakers (19-9, 11-4 Big Ten) faced early adversity as forward Vince Edwards was forced to miss the game with symptoms of a concussion. Sophomore Basil Smotherman stepped into the starting role to replace Edwards. In his second start of the season, Smotherman elevated his play to another level, scoring a career-high 17 points and pulling down 5 rebounds in his 35 minutes of action.
Purdue center A.J. Hammons contributed 13 points in a milestone game. At the 13:39 mark in the second half, Hammons scored the 1000th point of his career, sinking a layup. Captain Raphael Davis also played well for Purdue, adding 16 points and 10 rebounds to equal a double double.
Rutgers guard Kadeem Jack notched 17 points for the Scarlet Knights (10-19, 2-14 Big Ten) in defeat. Save for a late-game push, Rutgers lacked the manpower to keep up with Purdue.
The Boilermakers had no trouble scoring the ball in the first half, notching four three-pointers and racing out to a 46-30 lead. The Purdue lead swelled to as many as 19 points in the second half, when it appeared as if the Boilermakers would run Rutgers right out of Mackey Arena.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Myles Mack made a jump shot to spearhead what became a pesky surge from Rutgers. After numerous three point shots from Mack and Mike Williams, Purdue’s lead shrunk to just six points with 21 seconds remaining.
After the gap was closed, Purdue used free throws from Raphael Davis and Jon Octeus to close out the Scarlet Knights by the final score of 92-85.
The win helped Purdue keep its tie with the Maryland Terrapins for second place in the Big Ten Conference Standings. With three games remaining in the regular season, Purdue is still in the NCAA tournament picture.
Purdue will regroup before heading to Columbus, Ohio for a Sunday afternoon bout with the Ohio State Buckeyes.