Hammons scores 17, Purdue sends Rutgers to 9th loss in row
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Purdue has been winning with defense most of the season and lately it is starting to get a little more from big man A.J. Hammons.
Hammons had 17 points, seven rebounds, three steals and four blocks and Purdue held Rutgers to 33 percent shooting from the field in posting a 61-51 victory on Thursday night, sending the Scarlet Knights to their ninth straight loss.
“I’m just trying to play up to par for my team and just do what I need to do to win,” Hammons said after the Boilermakers won for the fifth time in six games. “I feel like I’m doing OK. I think I need to run the floor a little better and rebound more. I finish at the rim better but I need to rebound more. Every time I do something better something else goes down. I’m trying to keep it on a more consistent level. ”
Purdue coach Matt Painter said Hammons is improving.
“He has very good instincts when he’s engaged and ready to play,” Painter said. “I thought he was ready to play again and that’s kind of been the trend for him the past three weeks. He’s been pretty hooked up.”
Rapheal Davis added 13 points and five rebounds as the Boilermakers (16-9, 8-4 Big Ten) surpassed their win total from last season. Purdue went 15-17 last season in finishing last in the conference.
Kadeem Jack had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Rutgers (10-16, 2-11), which has not won since knocking off then-No. 4 Wisconsin on Jan. 11. The losing streak is the longest for the Scarlet Knights since dropping nine straight in the 2009-10 season.
“This is a real good team, real good guys and no one is going to quit,” Jack said. “We’re going to keep fighting and clawing.”
Purdue’s defense was the difference in this game, although Rutgers certainly didn’t help itself with its shooting in the first half. It was 4 of 18 from the field and 6 of 13 from the free throw line.
Scarlet Knights leading scorer Myles Mack summed up the team’s frustration. He missed two breakaway layups in the half after steals with one of the misses coming after he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 chance.
“Ever since coming here everybody says that’s what the (team) is about, play defense, rebound play hard,” Purdue guard Jon Octeus said. “We’ve just been trying to relay that to everybody. Guys coming off the bench have to come with the same kind of energy.”
Despite its poor shooting, Rutgers tied the game at 12-all on a jumper by Mack with 12:39 left in the half.
Purdue then went on a 13-1 run with Kendall Stephens hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer, and Davis converting a three-point play and a layup to open a 20-12 lead.
After Jack made 1 of 2 free throws, Hammons scored on a rebound dunk and a free throw and Dakota Mathias hit a spinning layup to cap the run.
The Boilermakers opened a 20-point lead at 48-28 on a layup by Vince Edwards with 7:23 left.
Rutgers had a 13-1 run and got within 49-41 but Purdue hit 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Purdue: The Boilermakers snapped a seven-game road losing streak in the month of February. Their last away win in the month was against Penn State on Feb. 5, 2013.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights’ 16 first-half points were a season low. The previous low was 18 against Virginia, in a game in which they scored a season-low 26 points.
Purdue hosts Nebraska on Sunday
Rutgers visits Iowa on Feb. 19