PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Vincent Edwards spent the early part of the week resting in bed due to an illness, and vomited when No. 3 Purdue arrived in New Jersey. While trainers are unsure if he is dealing with a sinus issue or the flu, it didn’t seem to have an effect on his game.
Despite missing the past two days of practice, Edwards had 18 points, seven rebounds and eight assists to help the Boilermakers hold on to beat Rutgers 78-76 on Saturday for a school-record 19th straight win.
“Just keep driving and keep pushing. Just try to be out there and be aggressive. Try not to mentally let the physicality of how my body was feeling get to me. Try to be mentally stronger than that,” Edwards said of how he was able to play through illness. “Especially when my coaches depend on me to do things for this team and my teammates depend on me to be out there so I’m just trying to give it all for my team.”
Mathis Dakota scored 16 points, Carsen Edwards had 13 and P.J. Thompson added 12 points for Purdue (23-2, 12-0 Big Ten).
Corey Sanders had 31 points and seven rebounds, and Deshawn Freeman added 14 points and nine rebounds for Rutgers (12-13, 2-10), which overcame a 15-point first-half deficit looked poised to pull off an upset at home.
“(Sanders is) a guy that is very streaky. He can really get it going and carry his team. It is just one of those things that you tip your hat to him. He is a good player,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said, adding, “they had a tough loss the other day and that is what I told the guys, ‘they beat Seton Hall here, they’ve had a sell out before. These guys have pride. They had a bad game last game and they are going to bounce back, fight and compete.’
“I thought physically they took it to us at times. They were very physical and obviously rebounding. I was very impressed with them.”
Freeman’s fastbreak dunk cut Purdue’s lead to six, forcing Painter to call a timeout with 15:29 to go. However, Matt Bullock corralled a defensive rebound on the ensuing possession and hit Sanders with an outlet pass and he made the fastbreak layup and the foul shot to pull the Scarlet Knights to 46-43.
Rutgers pulled within one on two occasions. Shaquile Doorson had a put-back dunk off of Geo Baker’s missed layup to get to 48-47 with 12:28 left, and Freeman had a tip-in on a miss by Sanders to make it 55-54 with 8:06 remaining, However, that was as close as the Scarlet Knights got the rest of the way.
“It’s tough when you’re getting everybody’s best look night in and night out,” Thompson said. “You’re not going to win every game by 20, 25 when you’re the number one team in the league, No. 3 in the country, on the road you’re going to get everybody’s tough shot.”
Rutgers took a 3-0 lead on Issa Thiam’s 3-pointer. Purdue tied it 29 seconds later after Thiam fouled Thompson on a 3-pointer. Edwards stole the ball and hit a layup on Rutgers’ ensuing possession to give the Boilermakers their first lead. They led 38-27 at halftime.
“We have hit a lot of obstacles, they just keep fighting,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “Guys stepped up today that haven’t played a lot. When you are building a program, you got to go through a lot of stuff. I think (Purdue) is the best team in the country. … If there is a better team inside and out in the country, I haven’t seen them yet.”
Purdue: The Boilermakers’ winning streak is the longest in the nation and has them atop the conference standings. They’ll look to improve their home winning streak to 22 – the third-longest in school history – when they host No. 17 Ohio State. A win would give them a bit of a cushion in what has become a three-team race for the Big Ten title between Purdue, Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan State, Purdue’s opponent after Ohio State.
Rutgers: Bruised and battered, Rutgers continues to struggle. With senior captain Mike Williams (ankle) out for the past two weeks and Eugene Omoruyi out for several weeks to recover from a knee injury suffered at Illinois, the undermanned Scarlet Knights fell to below .500 for the first time all season and have now lost five-straight, sitting alone at the bottom of the Big Ten.
The Boilermakers’ winning streak is due in-part to its efficient offense as they have scored at least 70 points in 17 straight games. Purdue is averaging 84 points per game on the season.
1,000 POINT CLUB
Dakota Mathis became the 52nd player in Purdue history to join the 1,000 point club. He now has 1,006 points in his career.
Purdue: The Boilermakers return home to host No. 17 Ohio State on Wednesday night.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights host Indiana on Tuesday night.