Penn State vs. Purdue Preview: Boilermakers Roll into Happy Valley, Winners of Two Straight

By Brad Peterson on February 26, 2021 at 9:08 am
Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
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Purdue Boilermakers
15-8 (10-6 B1G)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7 p.m. EST – Friday, Feb. 26
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, PA
Watch Info: FS1 | Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 20 | Line: Penn State -1

Penn State (8-12, 5-11, No. 39 NET) hosts the Purdue Boilermakers on Friday night, hoping to build on the momentum of their win in Lincoln and avenge their loss earlier this season in West Lafayette. The Nittany Lions did just that in Lincoln Tuesday. The 86-83 victory over Nebraska not only snapped a four-game losing streak but also gave PSU the split of the season series after the heartbreaking 62-61 home loss to the Huskers on Valentine’s Day. Myreon Jones led the way for the blue and white with a career-high 29 points on 8-18 shooting, 6-12 from behind the arc. Jones, aka Buckets, had plenty of help as all five Nittany Lion starters scored in double figures: Myles Dread (16), Jamari Wheeler (13), Izaiah Brockington (11) and John Harrar (10). Penn State’s two seniors willed the team to victory, continually coming up big in crucial situations. Harrar’s fifth career double-double and career-high 14 rebounds and Wheeler’s two free throws with :12 remaining were keys to the victory.

Purdue (15-8, 10-6, No. 26 NET) comes to town on a two-game winning streak and winners of 3 of 4 and 8 of the last 11. Purdue’s last win was also against Nebraska, as the Boilers used a late 19-4 run to take down the Huskers 75-58 on Feb. 20. Jaden Ivey led Purdue with 15 points. Sasha Stefanovic chipped in 14 and Brandon Newman added 10. It was one of the rare games that Trevion Williams didn’t manage double figure scoring, but he helped Purdue dominate 48-37 on the boards.

Purdue holds a commanding 40-13 advantage all-time against Penn State, including the 80-72 win at Mackey Arena on Jan. 17, PSU’s first game back after their long COVID hiatus. All five Purdue starters scored in double figures in the win over the Lions, led by Stefanovic’s 15 points and Williams’ 13-11 double-double.

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 Jaden Ivey – 6’4” – Fr.
G Izaiah Brockington - 6'4" - Jr. G Brandon Newman - 6'5" - Fr.
G Myles Dread - 6'4" - Jr. F Mason Gillis - 6'6" - Fr.
F John Harrar - 6'9" -  Sr. F Trevion Williams - 6'10" - Jr.

Scouting Report

Purdue is one of the youngest teams in the nation, with no seniors on the roster and starting three freshmen. Junior big man Trevion Williams is the key cog for the Boilers and whom every opponent must focus on when game planning. Williams is seventh in the conference in scoring at 16 PPG, the only Boiler averaging in double figures, and nearly averages a double-double, pulling down 9.1 rebounds per game. Williams is 17th in the NCAA with nine double-doubles this year and Matt Painter has called Williams the best rebounder he’s ever coached. Williams can be prone to foul trouble and he isn’t a shot blocker, so driving right at him isn’t a bad idea and using high screens to pull him away from the basket and make him defend away from the paint can contribute to his fouling issues. If Williams catches it deep, he is nearly unstoppable if you don’t bring a double team. It will be a tough match-up for Harrar.

Ivey has stepped up his game of late, averaging 11.9 PPG over the last seven games after being inserted into the starting lineup. The freshman wing is an elite athlete and looks to play downhill at every opportunity. He only shoots 20% from behind the arc, so defenders need to play off and keep him from getting into the paint off the bounce.

Fellow freshman Newman is one of two sharpshooters on the squad, along with Stefanovic. Newman shoots 40% from 3, Stefanovic 43%, and the duo average 9.2 and 9.8 PPG respectively, with Stefanovic now coming off the bench. Defenders needs to come out with hands high and not let either catch and shoot or it will be a long night. Purdue shot just 18.8% from 3 in the win over PSU earlier this year. Don’t look for that to happen again.

Matt Painter has his young team gelling at the right time. This is a typical Painter team that plays tough, hard-nosed defense and rebounds the ball ferociously. Painter’s rotation sees eight players average at least 18 minutes a game, and only one, point guard Eric Hunter, Jr., logs more than 30 minutes a game. As a team they shoot 44.7% from the field, 33.5% from behind the arc and 71.5% from the line. Not numbers that jump out at you, but the sum of the parts add up to a squad playing well.

Keys to the Game

  • Crash the boards. Purdue is 34th in the nation in rebounding margin (+5) and the Boilers have only been outrebounded in games four times this year. One of those times was when these teams met earlier, with Penn State holding a 49-47 advantage on the glass. The Lions will need to replicate that effort and do their best to neutralize Williams and Zach Edey inside. It will be a great battle between Williams (38th nationally) and Harrar (46th nationally), two of the NCAA’s top rebounders going toe-to-toe. PSU had 29 second-chance points vs. the Boilers last time they met, so you know Painter will have his team ready to rebound. Harrar definitely needs to stay out of foul trouble for Penn State to have a chance, which leads me to…
  • PSU’s new and improved D. When these two teams met at Mackey in January, Penn State was whistled for 27 personal fouls, 11 more than Purdue, and the Boilers went 24-33 from the free throw stripe. This was the game that led to a $10,000 fine due to Jim Ferry’s post-game comments about the officiating. Since then the Lions have done a much better job cutting down on fouls. Defending without fouling and keeping Purdue off the charity stripe as much as possible will be critical.
  • Transition Buckets. "Buckets" has been hot, coming off a career-high 29. Jones is second in league play with 50 made 3s and 39th in the nation in shooting it from deep at 40.3%. Getting out in transition and finding Jones, or PSU’s other shooters, spotting up before Purdue can set their defense will help negate Purdue’s 4th ranked B1G defense.

Prediction

Penn State’s margin for error in this game is microscopic, but if they play well, they can knock off the Boilers, as we’ve seen with most every game the blue and white have played this year. Purdue has won 17 of the last 20 contests in the series, but two of those losses have been in Happy Valley (2012 & 2014). If PSU can hang tough on the boards; if they can knock down their open shots; and if they can avoid the long scoring droughts, as they did in Lincoln, they can pull off the upset. That is a lot of “ifs.” Unfortunately, this looks like another close game the Lions will drop and we’ll be discussing the “what-ifs” again in hindsight.

Purdue 76 - Penn State 70

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