|No. 13 Purdue pursues 10th straight win against Rutgers|
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- After going undefeated in December for a second consecutive season, 13th-ranked Purdue looks to extend its nine-game win streak when it hosts Rutgers on Wednesday night at Mackey Arena.
The game will feature two of the Big Ten's tallest teams and will likely come down to rebounding.
Purdue (13-2, 2-0 Big Ten) capped non-conference play with a 98-66 win over Lipscomb on Saturday, outscoring the Bison 55-28 in the second half after leading by five points at halftime.
Purdue bested Lipscomb on the glass by a 49-29 margin despite its modest average rebounding margin of 4.8, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten and 79th nationally.
After the win, Purdue senior Isaac Haas, who stands 7 feet 2 and is widely considered an NBA prospect, emphasized the importance of improving on the boards heading into conference play.
"I feel like I've improved," said Haas, who averages 5.8 rebounds per game. "Going and getting it with two hands, and being able to step up and make those big-time rebounds that the team needs, but there's always room for improvement. ... Just locating the ball and the flight of the ball. Being able to keep both hands ready, and then just really going to get it. It's really simple, honestly."
Rutgers (10-5, 0-2) is coming off a 12-day holiday break, having lost 75-73 to Stony Brook on Dec. 22. The Scarlet Knights are seeking their first conference victory after losing their opener 89-67 to Minnesota on Dec. 3 before falling 62-52 to No. 2 Michigan State on Dec. 5.
"I'm excited about my team and the potential for it, but sometimes you've got to go through some rough patches to enjoy some of the good things," said Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell, in his second year with the school.
The Scarlet Knights are third in the country in rebounding at 44.6 per game and average 15.9 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks second nationally, but were outrebounded in both losses, allowing a season-high 23 offensive rebounds to Stony Brook.
"The rebounding has got me a little frustrated," Pikiell said. "I've got to do a great job with this group. We're in a tough spot right now. The last couple of games are not Rutgers basketball. It's my job to get us back on track."
The Boilermakers are 8-1 all-time against the Scarlet Knights and have won the last six meetings, but Purdue coach Matt Painter refuses to take Rutgers lightly because of its rebounding ability.
"They are going to grind it out against you, there's no secret about that," Painter said. "They've really upped their talent level. ... You have to be ready to play hard-nosed, physical basketball against them, and you've got to be ready to keep them off the glass.
"If they're getting a lot of second-chance opportunities, that's when they've had a lot of success."