Penn State at No. 12 Purdue Preview: Any Upset Magic Left?

By Chad Markulics on February 16, 2019 at 12:05 pm
Jan 31, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Purdue Boilermakers guard Carsen Edwards (3) holds the ball as Penn State Nittany Lions guard Josh Reaves (23) defends during the second half at Bryce Jordan Center. Purdue defeated Penn State 99-90 in overtime.

Matthew O'Haren - USA Today Sports

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Purdue Boilermakers
No. 12 Purdue Boilermakers
17-7 (10-3 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
4:00 p.m. ET - Saturday, February 16
Mackey Arena
West Lafayette, IN
Watch Info: BTN/BTN2Go
KenPom Rank: 9
Vegas Line: Purdue -12.5

Fresh off the power five upset of the season so far, Penn State travels a few hours West for what is perhaps their toughest game left on the schedule. A visit to Mackey Arena is rarely a treat for any opponent, and it certainly won't be a hospitable affair for a Nittany Lion team that has the Big Ten on notice after their win over conference co-leaders Michigan.

The Boilermakers will be on a mission after a 14-point loss at Maryland on Tuesday night, their first defeat in over a month. With the Big Ten title race now wide open and a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance within reach, Purdue can't really afford a slip up to what is still the Big Ten's last-place team.

This will be something of a revenge game for Penn State though, who had every right to feel slighted by a controversial no-call on a Lamar Stevens drive with the game in balance. Stevens has been on a three-game tear since that evening, averaging 21.3 points. He's only been shooting 40% from the field over that span, but the improvement in efficiency has been coming at the free throw line, getting to the stripe ten times a game. Prior to his 17 attempts against Purdue two weeks ago, Stevens hadn't shot ten+ free throws in a Big Ten game.

Projected Starters
Penn State   Purdue
Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Soph. 1 Carsen Edwards - 6'1" - Jr.
Myles Dread - 6'4" - Fr. 2 Ryan Cline - 6'6" - Sr.
Josh Reaves - 6'4" - Sr. 3 Nojel Eastern - 6'6" - So.
Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Jr. 4 Grady Eifert - 6'6" - Sr.
John Harrar - 6'8" - Soph.. 5 Trevion Williams - 6'9" - Fr.

John Harrar was a late add to the starting lineup in the previous meeting, likely to counter Purdue starting Trevion Williams in place of 7'3" Matt Haarms. Harrar also started the Michigan contest - no need to fix what isn't broken. 

Scouting Report

This is still Carsen Edwards' show. He had his best game of the Big Ten season in State College, knocking down eight three-pointers en route to 38 points. Edwards is having a historic junior season by Big Ten standards - he's on pace to set the 21st century scoring standard, averaging 24.6 points per game. That would overtake Frank Kaminsky's senior season (22.3 ppg) as the highest scoring average in the Big Ten of the last 20 years. In summation: he's good, and Penn State will have to throw the kitchen sink at him to hope to contain him.

With the focus on Edwards, it'll be on his supporting cast to finish their open looks. They did a good job of that at the Bryce Jordan Center, shooting 55 percent as a team. Matt Painter even got positive contributions from low-end rotation players Sasha Stefanovic and Eric Hunter against a typically rugged Penn State defense.

Keys to the Game

Penn State will have to produce around the 1.00 point-per-possession mark to hang with this potent Purdue attack, which they showed that they can do in the Michigan upset. The move to a small-ball lineup by Pat Chambers was incredibly effective against the Wolverines, pitting Stevens at the five against a classic center in Jon Teske. The Nittany Lions will need to rebound at a similar clip as they did on Tuesday night to outweigh the disadvantage of a small lineup, but there's no questioning that the matchup nightmare that Stevens creates for big men will be a concern for Painter.

Prediction

Luck finally turned Penn State's way on Tuesday night. Between John Beilein's ejection and some fortuitous refereeing decisions in crucial moments (see: Mike Watkins' double-dribble into a fadeaway jumper in the second half), Chambers finally got the bounces that his team had not gotten for much of the season. Not many teams are capable of generating their own luck at Mackey however, and Edwards will be on a war path to keep Purdue in the title hunt. Purdue 79, Penn State 65.

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