Senior forward Evan Boudreaux looked up at the clock.
He rose off his feet and released a 3-pointer. What happened after that didn’t matter. The buzzer had gone off before the ball was released, and Purdue had missed its chance at a victory. Likewise, it also might have lost its chance at joining the March Madness competition. Purdue had fallen 71-68 to Rutgers in the last game of the season on Saturday.
“I think it’s a big opportunity we missed out on, especially just closing out the regular season (and) trying to get a better seed in the Big Ten Tournament,” sophomore guard Eric Hunter Jr. said.
Purdue (16-15, 10-10 Big Ten) shot 81% from the free-throw line, but Hunter missed the most important free throw of the night. After Rutgers junior guard Geo Baker made a go-ahead jumper, Hunter was fouled under the basket after grabbing his own rebound with only 2.7 seconds left in regulation. He made the first shot to tie the game at 61 but missed the go-ahead. The game was taken into overtime and the Rutgers offense proved too much for the Boilermakers.
After the loss, Purdue’s projected Big Ten Tournament seed moved down to No. 10. Head coach Matt Painter said he feels like the team needs to win the Big Ten tournament now in order to qualify for March Madness.
“If we win four in a row,” he said, “we can (make it).”
Purdue’s largest win streak of the season is only three games.
Sophomore guard Sasha Stefanovic did everything he could to win, chucking up 13 3-pointers, but he only made five. Stefanovic led the team in points with 22 but was not entirely happy with his shot selection after the game.
“I just came out, just trying to be aggressive,” Stefanovic said. “In hindsight, a lot of those were probably bad shots. Fifteen attempts and 22 points, that’s not really efficient.”
Purdue was heavily out-rebounded for most of the game. Rutgers (20-11, 11-9) had 10 more rebounds than the Boilers at halftime and 10 points off of put-backs and tip-ins.
“We knew we couldn’t let them keep killing us on the glass,” Boudreaux said. “That gave them momentum in the first half. They turned it over a bunch, but they got so many offensive rebounds, (and) those are opportunities that we need to get.”
With five minutes left in regulation, Purdue took the lead in the rebounding category, leading to more efficient offense from the Boilers.
Purdue’s defense forced nine turnovers in the first half, giving the team extra scoring opportunities to make up for its lack of rebounding. Purdue’s ball protection on offense was impeccable, with only two turnovers, but quickly lapsed in the second half, cancelling out Rutgers’ turnovers in the first.
“I think they just made some bad passes, and I just don’t think we took advantage like we should have,” Boudreaux said. “A lot of that comes back to us letting up offensive rebounds.
“I think with our defense, we’re aggressive and we force turnovers, but we gotta capitalize off of them.”
The night concluded with a Senior Day ceremony, honoring Boudreaux along with guards Jahaad Proctor and Tommy Luce. Each senior addressed the crowd in Mackey Arena.
Luce spoke last.
“We’re not done yet,” he said. “We’re gonna make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.”