With 13.3 seconds remaining, Cam Spencer hit a 3-pointer to give Rutgers the lead, and No. 1 The Scarlet Knights held on for a shocking 65-64 road victory Monday night after Purdue missed its final two chances.
Steve Pikiell’s team has defeated top-ranked Purdue twice this season. On their home court last season, the Scarlet Knights needed a half-court buzzer-beater to earn the school’s first victory over a No. first-place team.
This time, Rutgers (10-4, 2-1 Big Ten) won in front of the 49th consecutive sold-out crowd at Mackey Arena.
“You need everybody on the roster to win a game like this on the road,” Pikiell said. “And everybody was ready to chip in.”
Paul Mulcahy had 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Spencer had 14 points.
“We know what’s coming. What Rutgers did tonight didn’t shock us,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “If we were going to war, we’d stop by New Jersey and pick them up.”
Zach Edey led the Boilermakers (13-1, 2-1) with 19 points and 10 rebounds after overcoming early foul trouble. It was simply insufficient to end an incredible second-half comeback from a 10-point deficit. New Mexico is currently the last remaining unbeaten team in Division I.
“You want them to be physically and mentally tougher than they were,” Painter said of his team. “Then, clean up the sloppiness.”
Rutgers dominated the game for the majority of the evening, taking a 34-24 halftime lead and repelling the Boilermakers’ resurgence. With 4:45 remaining, Purdue finally took the lead thanks to a three-pointer by Brandon Newman that broke the tie.
Rutgers took a 62-57 lead with 2:22 left in the game thanks to Mulcahy’s 10 points for the Scarlet Knights. Mulcahy missed a short jumper with 54 seconds remaining, Edey grabbed the rebound, Purdue called timeout, and freshman Fletcher Loyer made the go-ahead three with 29.8 seconds remaining. Purdue responded with four straight points to make it 62-61.
However, Newman missed a 3, and Spencer made his three after another timeout. The Boilermakers were unable to pass the ball to Edey for a final shot after Rutgers turned it over on an inbounds play with 0.4 seconds remaining.
“He played well the entire game, and he’s not just a shooter,” Pikiell said of Spencer. “He leads the league in steals and he does a lot for us. At the end, he’s like, ‘I’m making that.’ He’s a very confident kid.”
During the Pikiell era, the Scarlet Knights have beaten 14 ranked opponents and upset a No. 1 team accomplished this feat once before, and now they have done it again. It appears that Rutgers will reach the NCAA tournament for the third time, a school record.
“We’re three games into the best league in the country,” Pikiell said. “We’re good, but it’s a long, long season.”
“This league is tough,” he said. “Every team poses different problems.”