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Rutgers men's basketball must play near-perfect game to knock off No. 2 Purdue

Rutgers men's basketball's senior center Clifford Omoruyi will face a tough task matching up with Zach Edey on Sunday. – Photo by AJ Mast /

The Rutgers men's basketball team will host Purdue on Sunday at Jersey Mike's Arena on Livingston campus. It has been tough sledding for the Scarlet Knights (10-8, 2-5) in Big Ten play this season, and it will not get any easier with the Boilermakers (18-2, 7-2) coming to town.

Rutgers has a bit of history on its side going into this game against No. 2 Purdue. While it took eight losses over nearly four years for the Knights to finally best the Boilermakers, the former has dominated the latter in the most recent matchups.

Rutgers has won 5 of its last 7 games against Purdue, including two consecutive seasons of knocking off No. 1 ranked Boilermaker squads. Purdue will be ranked No. 2 this time around, but the Knights still know what it takes to pull off an upset of this magnitude, as seen in the last two seasons. 

Things feel a little different this time around, though, as Rutgers has not looked nearly as strong as it has in the past few seasons.

The Knights are currently 1-8 in Quadrant 1 games, with the lone win being a road victory against Seton Hall in December 2023. Aside from that win, Rutgers has struggled immensely against its tougher opponents and has kept just 3 of its 8 Quadrant 1 losses within single-digit points.

It is one thing to be playing close, competitive games against the tougher opponents on your schedule, but the Knights have barely done that. Improvements must be made as opponents do not get much tougher than the Boilermakers.

In a way, the keys to victory for Rutgers are simple. While the Knights may need an all-around perfect performance to compete with Purdue, there are two glaring things that Rutgers needs to do above all.

Make players other than Zach Edey beat you

It is nearly impossible to defend Edey. The 7-foot-4 big man has a size advantage over practically the entire country and can score with ease down low. Edey cannot be shut down — he can be slowed down, but his impact will ultimately be felt.

In the Boilermakers' loss to Northwestern earlier this season, Edey scored 35 points, approximately 12 points more than his season average. 

So, how then did the Wildcats (13-5, 4-3) manage to down Purdue? They locked up the rest of the Boilermakers. 

Purdue shot just 5-19 from three-point range, including an abysmal 1-7 performance from Lance Jones, who is a 35.8 percent shooter from long range. When the double teams came at Edey, he was forced to kick out to his shooters, who did not make their shots. That is what ended up being the difference in the Boilermakers' loss.

Senior center Clifford Omoruyi and senior forward Mawot Mag will have their hands full defending Edey. The pair must focus on denying entry passes into the post and hope the rest of the Knights' defense can close out on the perimeter. They must avoid foul trouble, and Mag will need to be as active as ever on the defensive end.

Make shots

To put it simply, Rutgers needs to make its shots.

The Knights rank 345th in the country out of 351 Division I programs in field goal percentage. The team gets some decent looks but simply has not been able to hit enough of them. The shotmaking ability is within Rutgers somewhere — the team just needs to find it.

A lot needs to go the Knights' way to win this game. By forcing some shaky shooting for Purdue's role players and improving its own shooting by even just five percent, Rutgers may be able to find success.

Sunday's game will tip off at 1 p.m. and be broadcast on Fox and 88.7 WRSU-FM.

For more updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on X.

To view more of Camden Markel's work, follow @CamdenMarkel on X.

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