Purdue fights off feisty Rutgers 82-75 to advance in Big Ten
NEW YORK (AP) — Carsen Edwards and Vincent Edwards each scored 26 points and No. 8 Purdue fought back another upset bid by Rutgers, beating the Scarlet Knights 82-75 on Friday night to advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Corey Sanders scored 23 points, including a baseline jumper in the closing minute to pull Rutgers within 78-75. Sanders scored 74 points the three-game run by the last-place Scarlet Knights at Madison Square Garden. But that was all for Rutgers.
Both Edwardses made free throws in the final 30 seconds to send Purdue (27-5) into a Saturday night game against seventh-seeded Penn State for a place in Sunday’s title match.
Geo Baker scored 25 points for Rutgers (15-19), the 14th seed playing 35 miles from its campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Winning two games guaranteed this tournament as a success for Rutgers, which won only three in the Big Ten regular season. For the third straight night, the Scarlet Knights had the Garden rocking.
Rutgers looked a like a team riding a wave in the first half, taking it to Purdue and shooting 58 percent. Sanders was getting to the hoop and flicking in fall-away jumpers and the Scarlet Knights led 38-35 at the half.
There was one ominous sign for Rutgers: Purdue shot 56.5 percent in the first half.
Then Dakota Mathias and Carsen Edwards made 3s on Purdue’s first two second-half possessions to put the Boilermakers up 41-38 and cause Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell to use a timeout 98 seconds into the half.
Rutgers wobbled but kept responding with big shots and hard work on the boards. The Scarlet Knights had 17 offensive rebounds. Baker converted a fast-break layup into a three-point play with 8:30 left and the Scarlet Knights had tied it at 62.
Moments later the Rutgers band played Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer” — a New Jersey anthem of sorts — but the “home team” in this first Big Ten Tournament played in New York City had peaked.
Vincent Edwards hit a 3 to put Purdue up 72-57 with 5:20 left and moments later Carsen Edwards scored inside to make it a seven-point game.
Rutgers: Whether this fun run for Rutgers is the start of a turnaround for a longtime downtrodden program remains to be seen. It would help if Sanders, a junior with some pro potential, comes back next season. If nothing else the arrow seems to be pointed in the right direction on the program for the first time in a while.
Purdue: In all four games played at MSG on Friday, the team coming in with the double bye looked rusty. Ultimately, the Boliermakers were just too big and talented for Rutgers. Seven-foot-2 Isaac Haas was the go-to guy down the stretch. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights and their fans go into the offseason hopeful.
Purdue: The Boilermakers beat Penn State last month 76-73 at West Lafayette, Indiana.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP