Piscataway, N.J. — Steve Pikiell will get a reprieve from the emails about his team’s poor foul shooting from disgruntled fans.
Caleb McConnell was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line en route to 16 points, as No. 25 Rutgers nearly blew a 17-point lead before holding off Purdue, 70-63 on Tuesday night.
“I love the way we finished the game from the foul line, so I won’t be getting emails tomorrow about free throw shooting so that’s a good thing for me and I look forward to that,” said Pikiell, whose team is shooting 64% from the foul line this season. “But these guys made big plays down the stretch you have to do that in this league. Every game is like that and you see it every time you turn on the Big Ten Network.”
McConnell hit critical free throws down the stretch, without feeling the anxiety mounting as Rutgers’ lead was dissipating.
“If you work on it then there’s not there’s really no pressure, you know I’m saying so it’s all about just repetition,” McConnell said. “And that’s what I do, just make shots.”
Rutgers (16-5, 7-3 Big Ten) would build the lead to 44-27, before Purdue (11-10, 4-6) went on a 10-2 run capped by a Jahaad Proctor layup to make it 46-37 at 14:12. Purdue would continue to chip away at the lead, getting it to six on a couple of occasions by the under four minute media timeout. Matt Haarms had a dunk to make it 62-58 with 3:29, before Evan Boudreaux hit the second of two free throws to make it a three-point game.
Haarms would foul out on the ensuing possession, and McConnell would hit a pair of free throws to put Rutgers up 64-59 with just under two to play, but Eric Hunter Jr. would make a layup with half a minute to go to make it 64-61.
It’s the closest Purdue would get.
“The most important thing is that we felt like every time they made a little bit of a run we were right there and get one back on them,” Baker said. “So just felt good to know that we can take a punch right back.”
Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr., and Akwasi Yeboah each scored 10 points.
Purdue jumped out to an early 5-2 lead, before Rutgers went on an 11-0 run, capped off by a Montez Mathis fast-break layup to take a 13-5 lead at 15:11. Geo Baker hit a 3-pointer off a Purdue turnover midway through the half to make it 24-13. The Scarlet Knights would lead by as many as 16 in the half before taking a 39-27 lead into the half.
Proctor led Purdue with 19 points on while Trevion Williams had 17 points and 13 rebounds.
“You don’t get rewarded for having a good fight,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We keep putting ourselves into a hole. It’s one thing being down in half, but when you have 11 turnovers. You have to play better.”
(At) Virginia 61, No. 5 Florida State 56: Kihei Clark scored 15 points, including a go-ahead layup with 59 seconds left, and Virginia ended No. 5 Florida State’s 10-game winning streak.
Mamadi Diakite had 19 points and nine rebounds for Virginia, which has won two straight after losing four of its previous five. That stretch raised questions about whether the defending national champions would even make the NCAA Tournament this year.
The game was tied 11 times and neither team could get any separation over the final 10 minutes. Virginia trailed 56-55 before Clark drove down the left side of the lane, reached across and banked his shot in on the right side. After Devin Vassell missed a jumper for the Seminoles, Mamadi Diakite hit a pair of free throws with 13.9 seconds left for Virginia (14-6, 6-4 Atlantic Coast Conference).
The Seminoles (17-3, 7-2) had two chances to tie it, but Wyatt Wilkes missed badly on a 3-point try from the top of the key and Trent Forrest also missed from the left corner. Braxton Key added a pair of free throws for Virginia.
Vassell led Florida State with 17 points. The loss was the Seminoles’ first since Dec. 3 at Indiana.
(At) No. 9 Duke 79, Pittsburgh 67: Vernon Carey Jr. had 26 points and 13 rebounds as Duke beat Pittsburgh after both teams honored Kobe Bryant during a pregame ceremony at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The somber opening gave way to a testy battle on the court that included an eruption by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski — in the direction of his own fans.
The Hall of Fame coach was angered by the Cameron Crazies directing a playful chant at Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel — a former Blue Devils player and assistant coach. Krzyzewski yelled at the fans to “Shut up!” and then came over across the court to scold them at the end of the first half.
Tre Jones contributed 14 points and Duncan Goldwire scored 13 as the Blue Devils (17-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their second straight game after dropping consecutive decisions to Clemson and Louisville. Pitt (13-8, 4-6) was led by Au’Diese Toney’s game-high 27 points, but lost for the fourth time in six games.
No. 8 Villanova 79, (at) St. John’s 59: Saddiq Bey scored 23 points, Collin Gillespie had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Villanova won its seventh straight game, easily handling St. John’s.
Justin Moore, starting for injured forward Jermaine Samuels, added 11 points and fellow freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 13 points and 14 rebounds as the balanced Wildcats (17-3, 7-1 Big East) won for the 13th time in 14 games.
Samuels, a 6-foot-7 junior averaging 11.1 points and five rebounds per game, was a game-time decision and sat out with a sprained left foot after getting hurt during Saturday’s victory at Providence. His absence hardly hindered the Wildcats, who quickly recovered from a slow start and opened a 24-point bulge in a second half that was never competitive.
Rasheem Dunn had 24 points for St. John’s (13-9, 2-7), the only Big East team to beat Villanova in each of the past two seasons.
No. 16 Butler 69, (at) Georgetown 64: Kamar Baldwin heated up after halftime for the second consecutive game, helping Butler overcome another deficit to beat Georgetown.
Baldwin scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half, and now Butler has won two consecutive games after dropping three in a row in Big East play.
McDermott scored 11 of his 25 points during an 18-3 run early in the second half. Butler (17-4, 5-3 Big East) was down by as many as 14 before halftime but never trailed again after taking the lead.
Georgetown (12-9, 2-6) built its big lead by making 13 of 14 free throw attempts and capitalizing on Butler’s 12 first-half turnovers. Center Omer Yurtseven led the Hoyas with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
No. 17 Auburn 83, (at) Mississippi 82, 2OT: Isaac Okoro converted a big three-point play with 1:41 left in the second overtime, and Auburn topped Mississippi.
Okoro had 14 points and nine rebounds for Auburn (18-2, 5-2 SEC), which trailed by as many as 19 early in the second half. Anfernee McLemore led the Tigers with 19 points, and Samir Doughty had 17.
The game was tied at 78 before KJ Buffen made two layups for Mississippi. But J’Von McCormick’s jumper got Auburn within two with 2:32 remaining.
After Devontae Shuler missed a jumper for Ole Miss, Okoro drove inside and scored while being fouled by Bryce Williams. He then made the ensuing free throw to give Auburn the lead.
The Rebels (10-10, 1-6) had a chance for the win in the closing seconds, but Blake Hinson missed a 3-point try.