With TMill on his way to sunny and hot Miami, I have been entrusted to write up a preview of Penn State here in unusually sunny and warm West Lafayette (I feel like I am back in New Orleans). Wednesday night's game will be the last time Robbie Hummel, Ryne Smith, and Lewis Jackson play in Mackey Arena, and I am sure they want to make it a memorable one, and make some of us wonder who is cutting the onions.
The Penn State game on January 5th was one of a few WTF games we had this year. Purdue had come off a solid home victory over Illinois on New Year's Eve, and followed it with the 20 point defeat in State College. I was somewhat fortunate that BTN was not working within the Purdue residential halls that night, so I was not able to watch the game. But from what I heard from those who were able to watch it, apparently it was brutal.
What worries me about tonight's game is that Purdue enters the game with the same feeling as the January 5th game. Both the Illinois and Michigan games have given us plenty of confidence for the season, so I am worried about déjà vu (my friends know I can be pretty pessimistic). The Selection Committee will certainly have their eyes on Purdue tonight, seeing if they can respond from a big victory and take care of business tonight on the home floor. If Purdue loses tonight, we would need to beat IU and/or win at least 2 games in the B1G Tournament in order to avoid one or two more home games as we will host the NIT. So as much as I love our seniors, this better be the last time I see them play in Mackey Arena.
2010-11 Record: 19-15, 9-9 Big Ten (Lost to Temple 66-64 in NCAA Tournament Round 1)
2011-12 Record: 12-17, 4-12 B1G, tied w/ Nebraska for last place in the conference
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 23-12
Last Purdue win: 1/19/11 63-62 at Purdue
Last Penn State win: 1/5/12: 65-45 in State College
Time & TV 6:30pm on Big Ten Network
The silence of Bryce Jordan Arena has caused trouble for teams like Illinois, Iowa, and Purdue this season. During the first game back in January, Billy Oliver gave all 100 Penn State fans in attendance something to cheer for as he went 7-11 behind the arc, giving him a career high 21 points in one game. His partner in crime, Tim Frazier added 15 points, as Matt Glover cleaned up the glass with 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, Purdue, so used to the noise of Mackey, couldn't overcome the silence of BJA and barely made 32% of their shots, as Robbie Hummel and D.J. Byrd were the only productive Purdue players that night with 14 and 12 points respectively.
Last time the Nittany Lions came to West Lafayette, it was the last game of a 5 game stretch against ranked opponents for PSU. They already pulled off a few upsets (Wisconsin and Illinois) and were looking for more with their 2nd shot against Purdue. Purdue had built up a double digit lead in the 1st half, but under the guidance of senior Taylor Battle, they brought it to within single digits at the half, and pretty soon Purdue's lead was non-existent within a few minutes of the 2nd half. It went back and forth the rest of the game, until JaJuan Johnson hit a jumper shot with less than 5 seconds left to win the game.
Anything can happen in the Big Ten this year, and Saturday's game against Michigan was just part of this crazy year. It may be senior night, but that doesn't make Purdue immune to a lose to a bottom feeder (case in point: Northwestern in 2009). But tonight's match-up should be favorable, as Billy Oliver is no longer playing basketball due to his continued concussion-related symptoms, but there are still plenty of players to worry about on this Penn State team.
Tim Frazier has been the hot hand as of late, as the Junior from Texas has averaged 20.6 points in the last 5 games. He has been the main leader of this Penn State team, which is still feeling the effects of losing most of their players to graduation and their coach to a mid-major conference.
Expect Frazier to get many looks tonight, but he won't be alone. Jonathan Graham doesn't shoot the ball often, but when he does, he is probably the most consistent shooter on the team with a field goal percentage of nearly 50%, the highest on the team. He doesn't get a lot of playing time, so when he does get on the court and has an open look, expect him to take it and probably make it.
Rebounding seems to be evenly spread between Matt Glover, Ross Travis and Cammeron Woodyard, as they all average 4.0+ rebounds a game and each have over 115 rebounds this season. Frazier though, leads all players with 4.8 rebounds a game and has accumulated 139 this season alone. You can see why he is their go to guy.
"Lewwwwwwwwwww JACK!" My favorite Paint Crew cheer the last 3 years I've been at Purdue.
Purdue needs to continue what it has been doing the last 2 games, especially what they did against Michigan Saturday night. We saw what happened last year at the end of the season that no matter how talented you are, even the bottom feeders can beat you if you are not playing at your best. If the 3's don't fall tonight, it's time to drive more towards the basket and get points in the paint, or at least draw a foul. Continue the tight man-on-man defense that suffocated Michigan, the last thing Purdue needs is another hot shooter to light them up from beyond the arc.
This game is the definition of a trap game for Purdue, it's right after a big win and right before a rivalry game. But with tonight being senior night, Purdue has built up momentum, and with a supportive crowd, Purdue will be ready to roll over Penn State. There may be times when it looks like the Nittany Lions will derail our Boilermakers, but even I feel confident in a 10 point victory tonight, even though I still fear déjà vu.
Purdue has struggled against Penn State this academic year. On top of the first meeting in State College, football lost to them, the volleyball team was swept in their series with them (the only team Purdue lost to at home), and the Women's basketball team suffered a defeat to the now outright B1G Champions. Let's hope that the men's team can end this streak against Penn State tonight.
I have a slight personal vendetta now against Penn State, as they have turned down my chance to visit their grad school over Spring Break. Also, my last interaction with them was with 30+ of their students in New Orleans flooding the American Meteorological Society Conference (no pun intended). They pretty much took over the place, getting everyone's attention, even though hardly any of the them presented research. Purdue even had more research presentations they did (including one from yours truly!), but it was still all about Penn State.
Time to show these Nittany Kittens not to mess with Purdue.