A lot has changed in just two weeks. Before last Wednesday’s game against Ohio State, Purdue was riding a 19 game streak all the way to the #3 ranking in college basketball. Computers loved them, polls loved them, and they were in almost every analyst’s final four. They were a lock for a #1 seed and undefeated in the B10.
Then they gave up a 14-point lead to Ohio State in the second half by 1 point on a Keita Bates-Diop put back. Then they went into East Lansing and lost to Michigan State by 3 on a last-second pull-up three-pointer by Miles Bridges.
Two big games decided by four points. True, Purdue had given up the B10 strangle hold, but they were still sitting in a fine position for a #1 seed, and they just needed OSU to stumble once to be back on top of the B10 race.
Ohio State didn’t just stumble going into Bryce Jordan Arena, they were blown out of the building. Penn State beat Ohio State for the second time this year - the only two conference losses for the Buckeyes.
But the Boilers weren’t in celebrating moods. Before the Nittany Lions went into halftime again OSU with a 20+ point lead, Purdue had already lost their third straight game against a Wisconsin team that was five games under .500 and shot under 40% at home against the Boilers.
A team full of seniors, a program that finally seemed on the cusp of climbing that proverbial mountain, is now in a complete free fall. Purdue looks to right the ship in the friendly confines of Mackey Arena, while a frisky Penn St. team will try again to be giant killers and make a late push to get into the NCAA tournament as winners of 6 of their last 7.
From: State College, Pennsylvania
Date: Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tip Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Television: Big Ten Network
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2016-17 Record: 15-18, 6-12 Big Ten
2017-18 Record: 19-9, 9-6 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Black Shoe Diary
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 35-12
Last Penn State Win: 79-68 on 2/2/2014 at Penn State
Last Purdue Win: 74-70 (OT) on 2/21/2017 at Penn State
NCAA Tournament History: 23 appearances, last in 2017, 1941 NCAA Champion
Coach: Pat Chambers (148-146 in 7th Season)
Hey That’s Fun! (Match-up of the game):
Tony Carr vs Dakota Mathias
Penn St. has a lot of guards, but expect Mathias to match up against Carr who has been incredible this year. There might not be a better guard in the B10. He’s averaging over 21 points in the last 7 games, and just dropped 30 on Ohio State. At 6’5” inches and the ability to pull up from anywhere, he is good enough to break a team’s back all on his own.
In those last 7 games, he has been incredible from distance. He’s knocked down 51% of his 3-pointers while taking more than 6 per game. Mathias has been one of the best perimeter defenders for the last two years, and Carr is as difficult as there is in the conference. Mathias’s ability to get into Carr and force bad looks and keep the ball out of Carr’s hands will likely be the difference of the game.
Where Purdue Needs to Attack
Purdue is having a team-wide slump. While spending the season as one of the most complete and balanced offenses in the country, and maybe the best 3 pt. shooting team in the nation, the last 6 games have been really really ugly.
3 pt. attempts over the last 6 games:
Vincent Edwards: 3-23 (13%)
Carsen Edwards: 13-35 (37%)
Dakota Mathias: 14-31 (45%)
Ryan Cline: 1-6 (17%)
P. J. Thompson: 5-20 (25%)
None of Purdue’s guards besides Carsen is good enough to consistently create their own offense off the dribble. Purdue’s offense runs off moving the ball and making shots. They’re not making shots right now. Penn State’s defense is all about stopping teams inside the paint. They have the 33rd best shot percentage against on shots inside the 3-pt. line while they’re giving up 34% shooting from 3 - 123rd in the country.
Purdue will need to find their shot to beat the Nittany Lions. Penn State is a top 20 defense at blocking shots and the 25th best team at forcing turnovers. Haas will always be a factor, but Purdue’s guards will need to shoot and make their shots to open up the offense.
And it might just be that simple. Purdue played with a lack of energy and toughness in Madison, but they also just weren’t hitting shots. They’ve struggled over the last few games to knock down open looks. If they start falling again, expect Purdue to bounce back just in time to start another run before post-season play begins.
If not, Penn State is absolutely capable of going into a place and pulling off a big upset. Just ask Ohio State.