PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Reigning College Basketball Player of the Year Zach Edey of Purdue wasn't overly excited about either scoring his 2,000th career point or becoming sixth player Big Ten Conference history to have 2,000 points and grab 1,000 boards.
The senior called it cool and just another accomplishment.
Beating Rutgers on the road on Sunday? That gave the big Canadian center a much better feeling after his 26-point, 12-rebound effort led the No. 2 Boilermakers to a tough 68-60 win over the Scarlet Knights.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a matchup I was looking forward to,” Edey said after Purdue (19-2, 8-2) ended a three-game losing streak at Jersey Mike's Arena, making it the last conference road venue where he had not won. “It was definitely a game that I wanted to win a lot.”
It was only Purdue's third win over Rutgers (10-9, 2-6) in the last eight meetings, and this one didn't come easy despite the Boilermakers taking a 14-point lead early in the second half.
“It’s a tough challenge, they have been good for the Big Ten," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “They have been better than us. Its that simple, we might be better in winning games, but in head to head matchups they are better than us.”
The Scarlet Knights rallied and twice got to within two points of the lead. The second time, guard Braden Smith hit a clutch floater to highlight a 19-point performance and give Purdue its fifth straight win.
Aundre Hyatt had 15 points and Cliff Omoruyi 13 for Scarlet Knights, who made it a game by shooting 50% in the second half. Freshman Gavin Griffiths came of the bench and hit a jumper with 5:19 to play to cut the Purdue lead to 55-53.
After Smith hit his big shot, Omoruyi made one of two free throws, Fletcher Loyer the made three free throws after being fouled on a long-range shot, Smith hit a layup and Edey had a dunk to put the game out of reach.
“Not many people have a 7-4 guy that catches everything and makes free throws and does what he does," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell, whose team outrebounded Purdue 36-32, including 15-6 on the offensive boards. “I thought Cliff battled him pretty good.”
Rutgers had no field goals in the final 2:02 and only two in the final 5:19 in losing at home for the second time in 11 games this season.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” said Purdue guard Lance Jones, who had season-highs of 10 rebounds and eight assists in offsetting a 1 of 10 shooting night. "They were bound to make one or two (runs) at home in front of a nice crowd, so it was bound to happen. But we stuck together and weathered the storm.”
Purdue: It struggled in the second half at Rutgers but that has been the norm. The Boilermakers are 4-2 on the road, so six of its final 10 conference games will be at home, where it is undefeated in league play this season.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights at 2-5 since the start of the year and the problem continues to be putting together a 40-minute game. If they don't start doing it soon, they are going to miss the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season.
Purdue: Hosts Northwestern on Wednesday.
Rutgers: Hosts Penn State on Wednesday.
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