No. 11 Purdue fell to a tough No. 3-seeded Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament Friday night, 64-49, in Indianapolis.
The Boilers (19-15) kept it close for the first three quarters, but were overwhelmed by the Knights in the final period. They fell victim to fatigue; their best two scorers, sophomore guard Karissa McLaughlin and junior guard Dominique Oden, were unable to efficiently score, with most of their shots simply falling short.
The Big Ten's leaders in minutes-played this season were no other than McLaughlin and Oden. They played an average of 37.4 and 35.6 minutes, respectively, and today those minutes caught up with the two guards.
"We had no legs," said head coach Sharon Versyp.
McLaughlin scored 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting, while Oden ended the game with 8 points on 2-of-12.
The two teams faced off earlier this season, and the Boilers lost a close battle in an overtime thriller. This time, however, with Purdue's low No. 11 seeding and the tempo Purdue plays with, that wasn't possible.
The Boilers came out of the gate fast, the same way they have since the start of the Big Ten Tournament. Every chance they got, they pushed the tempo and attempted to speed up the Knights.
Rutgers opened up the game in a full-court press that stifled the Boilers. After a made basket, Purdue struggled to get the ball up the court.
"They were just intense," Ae'Rianna Harris said. "They got after it."
However, defense was stout at both ends. Purdue opened up the game in a three-two zone with extended full-court pressure. In the half-court, the zone limited Rutgers, one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the Big Ten.
The press continued to stifle Purdue throughout the second period.
However, the Boilers were able to contain the lead that the Knights built up. Rutgers was able to build a lead against them due to subpar shooting from Purdue. The Boilers went on a cold stretch where they were 2-of-11 from the field and had a hard time finding any open looks. But they were able to cut it down to 7 after a deep bomb from junior guard Dominique Oden.
The team went into the locker room with momentum on its side, but a lot of work to do in the second half.
Purdue came out of the halftime break and immediately went on 7-2 run to cut Rutgers' lead down 2. But as soon as Purdue gained momentum, the Knights snatched it back, going on a quick 7-0 run to stretch their lead to 9. Purdue got the lead down to 4, but both teams went on a dry spell, which Purdue broke on a lay-up from Farquhar.
"You never can give Purdue light," Rutgers head coach Tim Eatman said. "They have great coaches and great kids who play hard."
The Boilers cut the lead down to 1 with eight seconds remaining in the third, until Rutgers' Jordan Wallace knocked down a 3-point buzzer-beater to stretch the Knights' lead out to 4 heading into the final quarter.
Rutgers started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run, snatching the momentum that Purdue desperately needed, which prompted a timeout from Versyp. The Knights continued to stretch out the lead as Purdue struggled to put the ball in the basket. Rutgers' first run spelled an end for the Boilers, who seemed to be out of energy. Their best players have played nearly 38 minutes in the past three days and the shooters seemed not to have their legs.
"When we attacked, we needed to finish," said Versyp. "That's when we got beat a little bit.
"The shots just wouldn't fall, no matter how good of a look (we got). ... Those fresh legs just wore Purdue down."
• The loss finished the regular season for the Boilermakers. They will have to wait and see if they are invited to a post-season tournament.