Mackey Arena is our fortress. We had our conference stumble against Minnesota, but tomorrow afternoon is supposed to be one of those games that is a win no matter what. Everyone expects to beat Penn State and the Nittany Lions are a paltry 2-18 all-time here, winning only in 1999 and 2006. Also, there is the air about them of “It’s just Penn State.” There is not a lot of fear of a team that has only been to the NCAA Tournament once in the last 16 years. Beating Penn State is one of those things that Just. Should. Happen. Period.
That’s where the letdown factor comes in. This is a young team that has already had a few promising moments this year. They have beaten Michigan State and the same Minnesota team that beat us. They play a little basketball, so we should be cautious.
From: State College, PA
Date : Saturday, January 21, 2017
Tip Time: Noon ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2015-16 Record: 16-16. 7-11 Big Ten
2016-17 Record: 11-8, 3-3
Opponent Blog: Black Shoe Diaries
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 33-12
Last Penn State Win: 79-68 at Penn State on 2/2/2014
Last Purdue Win: 74-57 at Purdue on 1/23/2016
NCAA Tournament History: 9 Appearances, last in 2011. 1954 Final Four
When I say Penn State is a young team I am serious. They do not have a single senior on their roster and they have five freshmen that make up a promising young core. That has led to some struggles throughout this season. They opened the year with an 87-81 loss at home to Albany. They also dropped a home game to George Mason 85-66. They did play Duke to a 10-point game and they have that two-point home win over Minnesota. On Wednesday night they made a late comeback against Indiana before James Blackmon silenced the fan with a buzzer-beating three.
The wins over Michigan State and Minnesota have shown that, while Penn State will not challenge for the conference title, they can do some damage. Much of that damage can come from Shep Garner, who is the Talor Battle Memorial Penn State Guard That Can Win A Game By Himself. He averages 12.6 points and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 36% from three. Freshman Payton Banks might be surpassing the junior for the TBMPSGTCWAGBH spot. Banks averages 11.8 points, has taken more threes than Garner, and he limits his turnovers.
Lamar Stevens is another promising freshman that averages 12 points per game from his forward spot. Tony Carr is the third freshman in double figures at 11.7 points per game, while Mike Watkins averages 9.9 points and 8.3 rebounds as a 6’9” freshman forward. This youth movement will likely pay huge dividends in a year or too, but for now this is still a group that is up and down.
As usual, Purdue should have a major size advantage in the post. Julian Moore, a 6’10” junior forward is the only post presence outside of Watkins. That smaller lineup could force Purdue into its “Biggie at the 5” small lineup. When Isaac Haas is in Penn State has no one even close to his size though.
Another thing that helps Purdue is that the Nittany Lions are not a good shooting team. They are the worst in the Big Ten at 41.6% from the field, while Purdue is second at 48.5%. Things are a little better for three-point shooting, as they are 11th at 33.9%, but Purdue is the best 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten and the only one over 40%. That leads to an average of 10 points more per game for the Boilers.
Like I said on Tuesday, this is a game Purdue has no business losing if it is truly going to compete for the Big Ten title. You just can’t lose at home to Penn State. Wisconsin has a tough game at Minnesota Saturday afternoon. Since they are our main competition for the Big Ten title right now, and they have to lose one more to give us a chance, we can’t afford to let another one slip away at home. Unless Penn State gets hot this should be a Boilermaker win.