The Boilermakers play host to the Nittany Lions of Penn State on Saturday for the first of two meetings this season.
Purdue (15-4, 4-2) comes into the game tied for 3rd in the conference standings after soundly beating Illinois on Tuesday, 91-68. Penn State (11-8, 3-3) is a game back of the Boilers in the standings after a heart-breaking loss to Indiana on Wednesday. The Nittany Lions overcame a double-digit deficit in the final minutes only to fall to the Hoosiers on a last second 3-pointer from James Blackmon Jr.
The Nittany Lions overcame a double-digit deficit in the final minutes only to fall to the Hoosiers on a last second 3-pointer from James Blackmon Jr.
Penn State is a very young team, which seems to be a common trend this year in the Big Ten. They have no Seniors on their roster this season, and currently have three Freshman (Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Mike Watkins) averaging over 20 minutes played per game. Shep Garner comes in as the leading scorer for the Nittany Lions at 12.6 ppg, but he leads a balanced attack on the offensive end as Penn State has four other players averaging 9.9 ppg or above (Stevens, Carr, Watkins, and Payton Banks).
Nothing jumps off the page about the Nittany Lions, but they have somehow found a way to be competitive in just about every game this year. In their last three games, they have won games against Michigan State and Minnesota, and lost a close game to Indiana. They are one of the worst teams in the conference as far as shooting goes making only 41.4% of their shots overall and 34.2% from behind the arc. They are currently third in the Big Ten in turnover margin but aside from that rank in the middle to bottom of the conference in most statistical categories.
Three Keys to the Game:
- Get the ball inside: This should be fairly obvious to anyone who has watched the Boilers play this year, but it must be reiterated. Purdue is a much better team when Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas get post touches. The two combined to score 46 points in their last game against Illinois. Feeding the ball inside forces the defense into a tough predicament. They must either allow Biggie and Haas to work one-on-one or double down and leave an open shooter on the perimeter. Purdue’s offense is at its best when it runs through Caleb Swanigan.
- Take care of the basketball: This will be a key for just about every game this year for the Boilermakers, but especially against Penn State. Purdue ranks 12th in the conference in turnover margin, whereas the Nittany Lions rank 3rd. Despite their youth, Penn State can be very feisty on the defensive end of the floor. Purdue’s turnover issues have been more with their interior players than with their guards. Penn State will most likely double the post when Swanigan and Haas get the ball inside. It will be critical for the Purdue big men to take care of the ball when that double team comes.
- Stop the dribble penetration: As mentioned earlier, Penn State does not normally shoot well from the floor. They like to attack the basket off the dribble and crash the glass on the offensive end. They will most likely use a lot of pick and roll action to try to create mismatches, especially with the Purdue bigs. Expect this to be emphasized much more when Isaac Haas is on the floor for the Boilers. Communication and help-side defense will be key in keeping Penn State from getting to the basket. If they can keep the Nittany Lions out of the lane, Purdue will have a much easier time protecting the paint and keeping Penn State off the glass.