#1 Purdue (14-1, Big 10 3-1) vs. Penn State (11-4, Big 10 2-2)
January 8, 2023, 6:00 EST
The Palestra, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Penn State Starting Lineup
|C||5||Kebba Njie||Fr||6'10"||237||Centerville, OH|
|F||2||Myles Dread||Sr||6'4"||235||Detroit, MI|
|F||10||Andrew Funk||Sr||6'5"||200||Warrington, PA||Bucknell|
|G||11||Camren Wynter||Sr||6'2"||200||Hempsted, NY||Drexel|
|G||22||Jalen Pickett||Sr||6'4"||209||Rochester, NY||Siena|
Penn State Bench
|F/C||24||Michael Henn||Sr||6'8"||244||Bellevue, WA||Denver|
|F||1||Seth Lundy||Sr||6'6"||220||Paulsboro, NJ|
|F||12||Evan Mahaffey||Fr||6'6"||200||Cincinnati, OH|
Penn State On Offense
This is an undersized team that lives and dies by creating open shots. They typically set up with all five outside the arc with not much cutting into the paint, and that’s going to be difficult against a team with the Boilermakers’ size. They are one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country, and with this match-up, the Nittany Lions are going to need a miracle to get many second chance points. In other words: they better make their shots.
Regarding size, however, Nittany Lions guards like Jalen Pickett have shown that they’re very physical in the paint and can body up against seven-footers down low before creating their own step-back jumpers. They’re by no means small, just a bit on the shorter side.
They are a great shooting team, though, both from the field and from the foul line. Penn State has the sixteenth-ranked effective field goal percentage and hits 77% percent of their free throws, good enough for 22nd in the nation. But here’s the thing: Purdue doesn’t foul a lot and tends to force bad shots and close out any offensive player with a semblance of space.
With their revolving door of similarly-sized hybrid guards/forwards, Purdue will have to be on watch for one of the best shooting back-courts in the conference. Another thing to keep in mind: Penn State is ranked first in college hoops in terms of avoiding turnovers. Their turnover percentage combined with how well they shoot almost negates their miserable display of offensive rebounding.
Penn State on Defense
The presence in the paint simply doesn’t exist. They close out shots well and honestly, don’t give up too many shots that need to be closed out. With their small lineup, however, they give up space to bigs, resulting in both points for centers and double teams that allow centers to kick out the ball to an open shooter. That’s always nice for Purdue.
In their most recent game, a 79-69 loss to Michigan, Penn State tucked their lion tails between their legs near the crease. Michigan’s 7’1” center Hunter Dickinson had an easy day down low and he doesn’t do many things that 7’4” Zach Edey can’t replicate or improve upon.
They’re excellent at communicating switching defenders with off-the-ball movement, something which Purdue heavily relies upon as well. But guys...they just get wrecked in the paint any time they face a dominant center. They’re going to have to constantly gamble on whether or not to stick multiple guys on Edey. If you double team him, he can find an open shooter. Alternatively, you take your chance in giving him what he likes to see in the paint and just hoping he misses. If Purdue hits their open outside shots (I know this has been said before) Penn State will be stuck on defense.
X-Factor - Turnovers
Penn State is better at protecting the ball than any team in the country one third through the season, and I expect them to stay sure-handed. What they’ll need to do to beat a team like Purdue who will almost assuredly out-rebound them?....Create them.
On the good guys’ side of the spectrum, if Braden Smith can continue to be a defensive pest and steal some possessions against Penn State, the Nittany Lions will need a record night in terms of shooting percentage to stand a chance against the Boilermakers.
Purdue - 70
Penn State - 65
Purdue - 78
Penn State - 66
Look, Penn State is pretty good at their brand of small ball, but I don’t see them being shifty enough on offense to overpower a Purdue roster loaded with guys who play tight, clean defense and who are all bigger at their positions and just as mobile. It also helps the Purdue has Zach Edey and they don’t.