Hoops Preview: Nittany Lions Set to Restart Season on the Road at Purdue

By Brad Peterson on January 15, 2021 at 12:15 pm
Jan 14, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Purdue Boilermakers forward Trevion Williams (50) dribbles the ball in the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Purdue Boilermakers
9-4 (4-3 B1G)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
1:00 p.m. EST – Sunday, Jan. 17
MACKEY ARENA 
West Lafayette, IN
Watch Info: Big Ten Network
KenPom Rank: 28

The Nittany Lions (3-4, 0-3, #41 NET) head to West Lafayette to take on Purdue Sunday afternoon in what will be the team’s first game in 18 days due to COVID concerns in the program. A lot has happened since the blue and white lost 87-85 in OT to Indiana in Bloomington on Dec. 30.

Purdue (9-5, 4-3, #37 NET) is coming off a huge come-from-behind win in East Lansing over Michigan State on Jan. 8 and an 81-69 victory in Bloomington on Thursday. In the Michigan State game, the Boilermakers rallied from a 17-point deficit, with Trevion Williams hitting the game-winner with 4.5 seconds remaining. Williams also led the way in the victory over the Hoosiers, posting a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds. Prior to the game against the Spartans, Purdue had lost two straight to Rutgers and Illinois, and three of four. Now they head back home on a two-game winning streak.

Purdue is last in the conference in scoring, but have the third-best defense. So, in other words, it's a typical Matt Painter team. The Boilers have blown a huge lead against Miami in the B1G-ACC Challenge and won with a big comeback against Sparty so it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster for them so far, which is probably typical for a young team starting two freshmen.

Projected Starters
Penn State Ohio State
G Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Sr. G Eric Hunter - 6'4" - Jr.
G Myreon Jones - 6'3" - Jr. G Sasha Stefanovic - 6'5" - Jr.
G Izaiah Brockington - 6'4" - Jr. G Brandon Newman - 6'5" - Fr.
F Seth Lundy - 6'6" - So. F Mason Gillis - 6'6" - Fr.
F John Harrar - 6'9" -  Sr. F Trevion Williams - 6'10" - Jr.

Scouting Report

Purdue is led by Junior big man Trevion Williams. The Boilers will look to dump the ball inside to the 6’10” center early and often. Williams averages 15.5 PPG and 9.6 RPG, and over his last four games he has stepped up his output, averaging just over 20 PPG, including the double-double in the win over Indiana. Williams is often overlooked compared to other big men in the conference, but he has the highest usage rate in B1G play and Purdue will make sure he gets plenty of touches.

Playing behind Williams is freshman big man, with emphasis on big, Zach Edey. At 7’4” he is an imposing presence and he moves well. Edey averages 8.2 PPG and 3.7 RPG in only 14 minutes per game. This is maybe the most imposing duo in the country.

Sasha Stefanovic is the marksman Matt Painter seems to always have in the program. Stefanovic adds 10.5 PPG and leads the team at 31 minutes per game. He shoots 49% from behind the arc, with 75 of his 92 shot attempts coming from deep. He is mostly a catch and shoot threat but can also come off screens and knock down jumpers.

This Purdue squad is young and has been inconsistent in B1G play. It is definitely not one of Matt Painter’s most talented squads, but the Boilers will play tough, hard-nosed, physical defense, as Painter’s teams always do, and they will crash the boards, with a +7 rebound margin this season.

Keys to the Game

  • Start fast. This may be tough because there is bound to be rust after the long layoff but falling behind early to Purdue at Mackey is not a recipe for success. Purdue is prone to turnovers, giving up the ball 13 times a game, so the Lions need to press the young team early and hit them with the frenetic pace they may not have experienced yet. And the best way to try to neutralize Williams and Edey is to make them run.
  • Stop Stefanovic. You can’t lose Sasha, you can’t leave him to hedge and help, and you can’t go under screens. Whoever draws the assignment of guarding him must make him put the ball on the floor and not set his feet and catch and shoot. If he gets hot, it is game over.
  • Make open shots. This may seem obvious but finding open looks against any Purdue team can be a challenge. When Penn State has them, they have to knock them down. Purdue’s guards have not shown the ability to keep players out of the paint, so driving and dishing to an open shooter, and finishing will be key, especially since it will difficult to finish over Williams and Edey.

Prediction

Playing at Mackey Arena has been a house of horrors for Penn State. The Lions won there last February, 88-76, with Seth Lundy scoring 18 (the first win in West Lafayette since 2006). In that game, PSU had five in double figures and shot 52% for the game from the field and 54% from the 3-point line. Purdue is 16-3 all-time against Penn State at Mackey, and while The Paint Crew won’t be in there in full throat, Purdue is still 5-0 at home this year. If the situation was different, I would think this is a winnable game for Penn State, but I think the long hiatus will be too much unless they have another incredible shooting night like last year. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening and I expect the Boilermakers to keep the Lions winless in B1G play.

Purdue 71 Penn State 65

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