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Mike Lopresti | | December 10, 2021

14 ways Rutgers' upset over No. 1 Purdue encapsulated a perfect night of college basketball mayhem

Ron Harper Jr. reacts to his wild buzzer-beating shot to upset No. 1 Purdue

It’s too early for March Madness. Would you believe December Delirium?

What happened at Rutgers Thursday night has to be called something, since Ron Harper Jr.’s halfcourt Purdue-beating dagger will likely be staying on the No. 1 seed line for the shot of the year. But the drama was more than a solitary Hail Mary.

BUZZER-BEATER: Watch Ron Harper Jr.'s wild buzzer-beating shot that sent No. 1 Purdue home with its first loss

Here are 14 ways that one game — a 70-68 Rutgers victory — was the latest testament to the fact that not even Amazon can deliver surprise packages better than college basketball:

1. The same Scarlet Knights who took down the No. 1 ranked team in the nation had just lost four of five games. One was an 86-51 thrashing at Illinois only six days before. Another was to 2-7 Lafayette. At home. “I told our guys, you won’t see that team when you come in here tonight,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.

2. Harper made 10 of 15 shots for 30 points. Six days earlier against Illinois, he was 1-for-9 for five points. The half-court game-winner he put in Thursday night — “A once-in-a-lifetime type shot,” Painter called it — is not new to him. “He made it at shootaround today,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “Same exact shot.”

3. The past Sunday was the 37th anniversary of Miami (Ohio)’s upset of Purdue in Mackey Arena. The Miami player who led the charge that game with 30 points: Ron Harper Sr.

4. Purdue came into the game second in the nation scoring at 90.5 points a game. Rutgers was No. 282.

5. Purdue was third in the nation in field goal percentage, but Thursday shot 41 percent. Rutgers was 324th, but hit 52 percent.

6. Purdue was second in the nation in 3-point shooting, while Rutgers was 327th. The Boilermakers went 7-for-26, the Scarlet Knights 7-for-14. “We have a very efficient team,” Painter said, “but we didn’t play like it today.”

7. Purdue outscored Rutgers in points off turnovers and second-chance points 38-8. So?

8. The Boilermakers had more rebounds and fewer turnovers. That didn’t matter, either. Before Thursday night, when Purdue won both those statistical categories, its record was 133-14 during the Painter years.

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9. The lead changed hands six times, but three of them were in the last 13.1 seconds.

10. Purdue had never been a No. 1 team. Rutgers had never beaten a No. 1 team. “History was made tonight,” Pikiell said.

11. According to Pikiell, seven of his players had the flu this week. Third leading scorer Geo Baker had been out three games with a hamstring injury, but was expected back for the game against Purdue. Then he got sick and couldn’t play.

12. The last time the Scarlet Knights did anything close to this rankings-wise was beating No. 2 UCLA — 41 years ago.

13. Rutgers is now 5-12 all-time against Purdue. Once upon a time, the Scarlet Knights were 1-12. They’ve beaten the Boilermaker four meetings in a row.

14. Purdue’s stay at the top of the polls turned into a cameo. “When you’re on the road, it’s just harder,” Painter said. Come Monday, we may have our fourth different No. 1 team in the sixth Associated Press poll of the season. Step forward, Baylor. Unless the Bears lose to Villanova Sunday.

Nobody knows for sure. Neither Seton Hall nor Iowa State received a single vote in the preseason poll, but on this same Thursday night, Seton Hall upset No. 7 Texas for its second win over a top-10 team and Iowa State crushed Iowa by 20 points to go 9-0. Nobody ever knows for sure in college basketball.

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