The Corey and Geo Show electrified the crowd all night. At the 14:12 mark of the first half, Baker hit a three pointer that sent the crowd into a frenzy and gave Rutgers an eight-point lead, their largest of the night. Sanders and Baker combined for 20 of the Scarlet Knights’ 38 points in the first half.
After Baker’s three, Purdue slowly but surely chipped away at the Rutgers lead, cutting it to as little as one point on four separate occasions in the first half. The Boilermakers could not manage to tie the game once Rutgers took the lead in the first half, though, and they went into the locker room at halftime trailing 38-35.
Purdue senior Vincent Edwards was asked about what changed during halftime to help put the Boilermakers on top in the second half.
“[Coach] just came and said our energy wasn't there or where it needed to be and challenged us as a whole, so we had to get together and challenge each other, pick each other up,” Edwards said. “When your coach comes in...and gets on you like that, he wants to see how you respond. It was a challenge and we were able to respond and get stops.”
Whatever coach Matt Painter said to him worked; Edwards scored 14 points on 5-7 from the field in the second half, including 2-3 from downtown.
Edwards was nearly matched pound-for-pound by Corey Sanders. Sanders went 7-12 in the second half, good for 15 points. He was asked about how the defense from Purdue’s P.J. Thompson affected him in the game.
“Defensive end, I mean, I went for 11 for 20,” he said. “So I don't think it was a problem what he was doing for me.”
Size was also a factor down the stretch. With under 2:30 to play in regulation, Purdue C Isaac Haas made the Rutgers defense look like middle schoolers when he put in an easy dunk and layup to extend Purdue’s lead to five. Even the Rutgers players acknowledged the impact that Haas had on the game.
“Some hard matchups for us out there,” Rutgers G Corey Sanders said. “Haas is a monster. Coach compares him to the Empire State Building.”
Haas finished the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds, the second double-double of any player in this year’s Big Ten Tournament.
Rutgers may have pulled off the monumental upset if they had been able to keep pace with Purdue from three point land, but the team simply did not have people who could hit from deep consistently. Geo Baker, the team’s leading scorer with 25 points off the bench, was 4-9 from deep. Rutgers only attempted 14 three pointers the whole game. Purdue attempted 17 treys in the second half alone.
Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell commended Purdue on their prowess shooting the ball from deep and their ability to drive and kick.
“Vince Edwards is good at driving it,” he said. “If you play up on him he goes by you. If you stay off him he makes 3s. And then he can drive it and kick. Very few teams in the country can drive four guys drive and kick. They have that. So it's a real tough team to defend with one day to prepare, too.”
Purdue as a whole shot 13-30 (.433) from long range, a tick above their season mark from long range (.421), which ranks third in all of Division I.
Though Purdue is advancing, it was Rutgers that got all the love at Madison Square Garden. With under a minute to go Purdue G Carsen Edwards drew a foul and went to the line up by three. As he walked over, the crowd erupted into cheers of “Co-rey San-ders,” showing their love for the Rutgers junior. Sanders showed out for his home crowd over the course of the tournament, averaging 24.7 points on .533 shooting.
Rutgers exits the Big Ten Tournament having made history; they are the only 14-seed to advance to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. This was the team’s first time making it to the third day of any conference tournament since 1998, when the Scarlet Knights were still members of the Big East. The future looks bright for this Rutgers program.
“[We’re] just a program that don't give up, that you can't count out, even though we were put last," Sanders said after the loss. "That's not how we're going to finish. That's not how we want to be remembered. Just a program that's on the rise. Just don't sleep on us.”
Purdue will face off against #6 Penn State tomorrow, who is fresh off a 69-68 upset victory over #2 Ohio State.
“It's going to be a war,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “ It's going to be a really tough game.”
Vincent Edwards, F, Purdue (26 points, 5 rebounds, 10-14 FG, 4-7 3FG)
Isaac Haas, C, Purdue (12 points, 10 rebounds, 5-7 FG)
Corey Sanders, G, Rutgers (23 points, 4 assists, 11-20 FG)
Geo Baker, G, Rutgers (25 points, 10-20 FG)