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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 6:40 pm

Pregame: Purdue (10-6, 3-2 Big Ten) vs. Rutgers (8-7,1-4)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – For the first time since Dec. 6, Purdue will play a home game tonight with the Paint Crew student section in attendance. The Boilers remain undefeated at home and are trying to win their second in a row heading into their rivalry matchup with No. 25 Indiana on Saturday.

In years past, Rutgers has not been the most formidable of opponents, especially on the road. The Scarlet Knights have yet to finish outside of the Big Ten basement since joining the conference before the 2014-15 season and are a combined 10-67 in Big Ten play. Still, if Purdue wants to improve to 8-0 at Mackey Arena, Rutgers figures to at least make the Boilers earn it. The Scarlet Knights are a solid defensive team, holding opponents to 42 percent shooting and 65.4 points per game (40th in the country). Just last week, they used that defensive intensity to knock off then-No. 16 Ohio State in Piscataway, their first win over a ranked conference opponent in three years under current coach Steve Pikiell. It's not a lot to hang their hat on yet, but it's at least a sign that Rutgers will be less of a gimme than it's been in recent seasons.

Once again, the key for Purdue will be handling its opponents' big men. Forward Eugene Omoruyi leads the team in points (14.6) and rebounds (7.5) per game, while the Scarlet Knights also bring 6-foot-11 Shaq Doorson and 6-10 Myles Johnson off the bench. That pair combines to average more than 10 rebounds per game and a key for the Boilers will be keeping those three off the glass. That's more challenging because power forward Evan Boudreaux is still recovering from the groin injury he suffered against Michigan State and won't play tonight. That puts more pressure on Matt Haarms and especially freshman Trevion Williams. Williams figures to get his second start of the season after scoring nine points and grabbing 11 rebounds in his first start against Wisconsin and putting up 13 points and 12 boards against Michigan State. He's certainly proven that he can handle a bigger workload, playing a career-high 25 minutes against the Badgers. 

This has all the makings of a trap game for the Boilermakers. They're playing one of the lesser teams in the Big Ten, while coming off an emotional win and with a big-time matchup next on the schedule. If they can get past the Scarlet Knights, all eyes can turn to Saturday and Indiana. The Boilers should win this game if they can avoid looking past Rutgers, though that's easier said than done. 

dsinn@jg.net