WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP)Rutgers guard Geo Baker was just doing what his team expected.
”It’s not even really putting the team on my back,” Baker said. ”Everyone has a role on this team and my role is to get the ball at the end of the game and make a play. I’m very comfortable in that role, win or lose. I want that. I want the ball at the end of the game.”
Baker scored 19 points, including a crucial late basket, to help lift Rutgers to a 71-68 overtime victory over Purdue Saturday in the final regular season game for both teams.
”He’s tremendous,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. ”He wanted the ball. I’m just proud of him. He made some real tough shots and I thought we took advantage of some mismatches. I thought we did a good job of feeding our open guys.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter said Baker was tough to stop.
”When he gets hot like that, he makes those plays,” Painter said. ”It’s amazing he averages 11 points because he has an handful of games like he had (Saturday) where he just makes impossible shots.”
Ron Harper Jr. added 15 points, including the winner, for the Scarlet Knights (20-11, 11-9 Big Ten).
The Scarlet Knights, now 3-12 all-time against Purdue, got their first victory at Purdue.
”This has been really tough place for us to play,” Pikiell said, ”It’s a tough place for everyone to play. Our guys, they’ve sacrificed a lot you know and and they’ve given up themselves and (Saturday) was just a perfect example where everyone stepped up and made big plays.”
Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic had made a 3-pointer and tied the game at 66-all in overtime. But Harper Jr. answered immediately with his third 3-pointer to put the Scarlet Knights ahead for good at 69-66 with 1:10 to go.
Eric Hunter Jr. was fouled and sank two of three free throws to narrow the deficit to 69-68. Baker hit a shot with 11 seconds left to make it 71-68. Purdue’s Evan Boudreaux missed a shot from behind the arc, but it was unclear if he got it off in time.
Stefanovic was high for the Boilermakers (16-15, 9-11) with 22 points. Hunter added 12 points for Purdue, which saw its NCAA Tournament hopes dwindle.
”It’s a big opportunity we missed out on, especially closing out the regular season and getting a better seed in the Big Ten Tournament,” Hunter said.
Hunter missed an opportunity to win in regulation for Purdue when he missed the second of two free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining. His first free throw tied it a 61-all. The Scarlet Knights got the rebound, but were unable to get a shot off.
Hunter’s layup had put Purdue ahead 60-59 with 30 seconds to go. But Baker answered with a step-back jumper to put Rutgers ahead.
Purdue center Matt Haarms electrified the crowd with a big dunk following a missed 3-pointer by Jahaad Proctor to put the Boilermakers ahead 49-47.
Any momentum was short-lived as Rutgers regained the lead on a 3-pointer by Baker to grab a 51-49 lead with 5:43 left.
With 1:27 left in regulation, Baker hit two free throws to push the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 59-55. Stefanovic sank a 3-pointer while falling down to narrow the deficit to 59-58.
Rutgers’ Jacob Young missed two free throws with 57 seconds left.
In the first half, Young sank a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left to give Rutgers a 36-33 lead at the break.
Rutgers held a 42-39 rebounding edge and shot 44% while Purdue was 34% shooting.
”Give them credit, they made some tough shots,” Painter said.
Rutgers: Got a Big Ten road victory to likely seal an NCAA Tournament bid.
Purdue: Boilermakers saw their NCAA Tournament hopes fade by finishing below .500 in conference. Purdue will likely need a deep run in the conference tournament.
Purdue coach Matt Painter said he believed his team had to win the Big Ten Tournament now to secure an NCAA bid. How do the inconsistent Boilermakers do that?
”Win four games,” Painter said.
Rutgers will play Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, likely seeded eighth or ninth, depending on Michigan’s game at Maryland on Sunday
Purdue will be seeded 10th in the Big Ten Tournament, playing the seventh seed on Thursday.
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