We get to play a home game! Purdue has not gotten to play on Keady Court since the Christmas Day game against Maryland. The postponement of the Nebraska game meant an extended four-game road trip, where Purdue was fortunate enough to get a split. It was the longest road trip since the 1965-66 season. That year December Purdue played at Evansville, at Valparaiso, a neutral site game against St. John’s in Los Angeles, at UCLA, another neutral site LA game against Vanderbilt, at Notre Dame, and at Northwestern.
The travel this time was not as far flung, but four straight road games during a pandemic just adds to the oddity that is current events. Getting the split was gigantic for Purdue too, and it puts us in almost the exact same spot we were in 11 months ago when Penn State came to West Lafayette.
Last February a struggling Purdue stole a win with a late comeback at Northwestern, beat Iowa by 4 million points at home, then got a double-digit win in Bloomington. It seemed Purdue finally had some momentum and had turned a corner. The Nittany Lions then came in and shot the damn lights out of the gym, starting a four game losing streak with a shocking 88-76 win in Mackey Arena. Once again, Purdue has a ton of momentum after the last two games. Can we keep it going?
From: State College, Pennsylvania
Date: Sunday, January 17, 2021
Tip Time: 1 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
2019-20 Record: 21-10, 11-9 Big Ten
2020-21 Record: 3-4, 0-3 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Black Shoe Diaries
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 39-13
Last Penn State Win: 88-76 at Purdue on 2/11/2020
Last Purdue Win: 76-64 at Purdue on 2/16/2019
NCAA Tournament History: 23 appearances, last in 2017, 1941 NCAA Champion
Coach: Jim Ferry (3-4 as 1st year interim coach, 317-269 overall)
Penn State was one of the unlucky teams that saw a great chance for some March success lost by the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament. They were a lock to make the field despite losing five of their last six games. They spent some rare time in the top 15 as they were ranked 13th when they won in Mackey. They even had a real shot at winning the Big Ten until the late swoon.
To call their offseason tumultuous is an understatement. They, of course, had the same issues everyone has had in navigating COVID. Pat Chambers then resigned just before the season on October 21, putting assistant Jim Ferry in charge.
Once actual basketball started they have also been all over the place. They lost at home in overtime to Seton Hall, but shocked many with a convincing 75-55 at top 25 Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They were limited to just four non-conference games, and they lost to Michigan by 4 in Ann Arbor, by 17 to Illinois at home, and by 2 in overtime at Indiana. A series of positive COVID tests in the program have had them on pause since the Indiana game on December 30th, so we’re their first game in almost three weeks. All told, four games were moved.
The Nittany Lions lost an all-conference talent in Lamar Stevens, but they are more balanced this year. Junior Izaiah Brockington has come out very strong this year, averaging 15.1 points per game. He is also shooting an excellent 52.9% from three. Purdue really needs to watch out for Seth Lundy though. The Boilers completely lost him in last year’s game and he went 6 of 9 from three for 18 points. This year he is averaging 12.6 points per game.
Myreon Jones (14.3 ppg) and Sam Sessoms (12.6 ppg) have been great in the backcourt with Brockington. Sessoms is also shooting better than 45% from three. Myles Dread is still there too, and he has long been an excellent three-pointer shooter. Three point defense will be big in this one, as Purdue has the best three point defense in the conference and Penn State is second.
Where Purdue should have a significant advantage is in the paint. Trevion Williams is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now and Zach Edey is still getting his feet wet in Big Ten play, but has had some good moments. Penn State really does not have anyone to match up with them. John Harrar averages 7 points and 6.6 rebounds as their best post player. Trent Buttrick plays about 15 minutes a night as a backup, but this is a very guard heavy team. When Edey is in the game he will have at least a 6 inch height advantage on anyone guarding him.
What should help Purdue is that Penn State is not a strong defensive team. We’re currently last in the league in scoring at 71.1 points per game, but the Nittany Lions are last defensively, giving up 76.3 per game. In Big Ten play they have been even worse at 83.3 per game. They can defend the three as mentioned above, but defending the post is an issue. Tre should feast.
Purdue is on a bit of a roll right now. We shot the ball extremely well in Bloomington, so hopefully that continues, especially since we’re back home. We know Sasha Stefanovich loves shooting in Mackey. They also don’t appear to have any answer for Trevion. Also, how rusty will Penn State be after not playing in three weeks? Our own schedule does not get any easier after this, as we get three straight ranked teams, then a trip to Maryland. It is also the second of four games in eight days for us.
Simply put, this is a game Purdue should be favored in and we need to take care of business.