Purdue had chances to beat a ranked team on the road on Tuesday night but couldn’t finish, losing 81-76 at No. 14 Rutgers.
The Boilermakers (7-4, 2-2) found themselves down 15, 38-23, with 4:18 to go in the first 20 minutes. However, it managed to cut the gap to six at the break, 40-34. Reserve point guard Isaiah Thompson led the comeback by hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the final four minutes.
Within the first four and one half minutes of the second half, Purdue found itself with the lead when Thompson hit layup, 46-44. By the 10:52 mark, Purdue had built a 5-point margin, 53-48, on of back-to-back baskets by Trevion Williams.
That capped a 23-6 run by Purdue.
Afterwards, Rutgers (7-1, 3-1) took command. Its run started by a Paul Mulchay 3 while a Geo Baker steal and dunk tied the game at 53.
For the most part, the Scarlet Knights took control of the game thereafter as Montez Mathis started a run on a 3-pointer and two free throws.
Jaden Ivey kept it close on a made jumper and ending with a pair of free throws at the 8:12 mark, giving Purdue the lead again, 59-58.
Then Mulcahy made another 3 and Baker had a layup with 7:13 to go and Purdue was down four, 63-59. Twice thereafter Purdue was able to cut the margin to a single point, 66-65 and 69-68, but it could not get over the hump.
Coach Matt Painter was disappointed with his team's defense after earning a lead.
"The ones that Mulcahy hits in the second half, there's like nobody there (defensively), you're wide open, nobody is rotating to him," he said. "One's (on) a drift pass I think and another just a simple help and recovery, dribble drive when a guy helps when his man is high and he helps low. We were in a good position in the second half and they make two or three plays in a row ... I was more concerned with our inability to contain the dribble, especially when there was nothing going on."
The Scarlet Knight lead grew to 7 with 1:07 to go and they held on to win the game.
"They were able to get by us and get angles and get to the rim and kick for 3s," Sasha Stefanovic said of Rutgers' ability to win. "We were just really bad on that end of the floor tonight."
Painter thought the failure was inconsistency.
"We just didn't have a great combination tonight of offense and defense," Painter said. "We'd have maybe a guy do some good things for us offensively, but then he'd struggle defensively. So you'd never get a group of guys you wanted. I thought Trevion obviously did some good things offensively. We thought we had an advantage there, but we could not get enough consistent play across the board on both ends of the court."
Field goal shooting was about the same for both teams – Purdue shot 49.2% (29 of 59 from the field) and Rutgers shot 50.0% (28 of 56). However, Rutgers had four more 3s and three more free throws to seal the win.
Purdue won the rebounding battle, 33-31, but lost the turnover margin, 8-6.
Williams led the Boilers in scoring with 21 points on 10 of 12 from the field and 1 of 1 at the line. He also had 12 rebounds.
"When it's your night, it's your night, when it's not, it's not," Williams said of his performance. "I've been continuing to do the extra work, my same routine and some shots just fell for me, but it's not about me, it's about Purdue winning."
Thompson was second in scoring with 14 on 7 of 8 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Stefanovic added 14 points.
"It can be a good step forward, not only for me but for the team as well. We felt like we had a chance to win and a couple of things did not go our way, but we can have some good momentum going into Saturday," Thompson said.
Eric Hunter Jr. had an off night. In 20:38 of play, he scored nine points on 2 of 8 from the field and 3 of 3 from the line. While he was on the floor for Purdue, the Boilermakers were outscored by 16.
"He just didn't play well," Painter said. "He wasn't ready to shoot a couple of times, he just didn't play well. The guy playing behind him (Thompson) played better, so we stuck with him and played him more.
'Eric is a good player, but you have to be productive. You got to be ready. You've got to be ready on both ends to help us, you got to be ready to lead us and when you don't and somebody else plays better than you that person is going to play. It's pretty simple."
Despite having leading scorer Ron Harper Jr. out with an ankle injury, Rutgers got tremendous balance. Four of the five starters scored in double digits led by Mathis with a career-best 25. Baker was second in scoring with 19 while Jacob Young had 13 and Mulcahy had 11.
Purdue returns to action at 6 p.m. Saturday when it travels to No. 15 Illinois (7-3, 3-1).
- Purdue fell to 7-4 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten with an 81-76 loss to No. 14-ranked Rutgers.
- Purdue was looking for its first win over a top-15 foe on the road since Feb. 25, 2011, at Michigan.
- After Purdue won 12 of the first 13 meetings all-time against Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights have won three in a row against the Boilermakers, the second-longest winning streak by a Big Ten team against Purdue (Michigan – 4).
- Purdue recorded just eight turnovers, its second-lowest total of the season (Notre Dame – 6).
- Purdue outscored Rutgers in the paint, 42-28, but had just four points off turnovers.
- Purdue lost for just the second time since the start of the 2017-18 season when shooting at least 48.0 percent from the field. Now 45-2, the Boilermakers’ other loss came to Virginia in the 2019 Elite Eight. Purdue shot 49.2 percent from the field, including 22-of-33 (.667) from inside the arc.
- Over the last four games, opponents are now 49-of-124 (.395) from 3-point range.
- Trevion Williams recorded his third double-double of the season with a 21-point, 12-rebound effort. He went 10-of-12 from the field.
- Isaiah Thompson tied a career-best with 17 points. He made three consecutive 3-pointers late in the first half to cut a 15-point deficit to six at the break.
– Purdue Athletics contributed to this report.