Basketball Preview: Penn State vs. Purdue
Last time we saw our heroes, they were in Bloomington taking on Indiana. Despite out-rebounding, out-blocking, and making more shots than the Hoosiers, the Nittany Lions (12-5) still dropped their fourth straight game, 76-73. Untimely fouls and ghastly shooting from behind the arc were the main factors as Penn State started 0-4 in conference for the third straight season.
Next up is Purdue, a team coming off two straight losses to opponents in the Top 15. Saturday’s contest will be the first on-campus game with students back in town in over a month.
The Enemy (Is Everywhere)
Purdue is 10-7 overall, and 2-2 in the conference. Overall, the Boilermakers haven’t played a team that has a losing record, and own the 86th toughest schedule in the country. They average 73.1 point per game, and give up 64.6.
The Boilermakers are balanced. Led by Kendall Stephens’ 10.9 points per game, Purdue has six players averaging more than 8.5 points. Purdue also has size, and knows how to use it. 7-foot-2 freshman Isaac Haas and 7-foot junior A.J. Hammons both average more than 10 points per game, and Hammons averages almost six boards. Expect to see a lot Jordan Dickerson in the game for Penn State to try and match up with these two.
The scariest thing about the opponent may be that it’s desperate. After dropping the last two to Wisconsin and Maryland, and suffering two bad losses at home to Gardner Webb and North Florida during the non-conference season, the Boilermakers need a win to keep their small NCAA hopes alive. Another bad loss will put them at 2-3 in the conference, with a tough three-game stretch (at Illinois, vs. Iowa, vs. Indiana) looming.
How to Make Them Disappear Completely
This is a game that could help Penn State get back on track. Purdue ranks 298th nationally in defense against the three, allowing opponents to shoot 37.2 percent from behind the arc. After a head-scratching performance against Indiana (4-of-24) and an average performance against Michigan (7-of-20), hopefully playing against Purdue is exactly what the Nittany Lions need.
If Penn State wants to have a legitimate chance, though, it will have to break the spell that seems to be on the Bryce Jordan Center. I’m not sure if the empty seats in the background provide a comforting, practice gym feel, or what it is, but opponents always seem to shoot well in the BJC behind the arc, as evidenced by Michigan shooting 60 percent (!!) in last week’s game. Luckily, Purdue is shooting 33.5 percent from deep on the year. Hopefully, it won’t be a problem on Saturday for the Nittany Lions.
Finally, Purdue is tied for 282nd in fouls per game. Penn State is tied for 302nd. Expect free throws to fly in the Bryce Jordan Center.
KenPom Game Prep
Both teams are desperate for a win, but a gut feeling tells me Purdue will take this one. The Nittany Lions will have a chance at the end, but Purdue wins it by three points, sending our heroes to 0-5 in conference play.
Photo: Bobby Chen/Onward State