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Purdue vs. Penn State | Matchups to Watch

Purdue heads to Philly to play Penn State at the Palestra in an attempt to stay atop the B1G Leaderboard

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Boilers got themselves back on track after a big victory over the Buckeyes in Columbus where the shooting woes seemed to have righted themselves after starting 0-7 from behind the arc. The Boilers were boosted by David Jenkins Jr. off the bench by hitting 3-3 from behind the arc for 9 points while Zach Edey and Braden Smith led with 16 points a piece.

Let’s take a look at the important matchups against the Penn State Nitanny Lions at the Palestra:

1 | Purdue’s Roster Depth vs. Penn State

Purdue enjoys one of the deeper teams in the country and has a bench usage of 35.5% of minutes with high level scorers in Brandon Newman and David Jenkins Jr. while Mason Gillis and Trey Kaufman-Renn are both capable scorers in their own right. All four of these players have proven their ability to score points when relied upon or even as a secondary option throughout this season and in their careers. There are not a lot of programs in the B1G that legitimately have four bench players that would be starters for most other teams.

Penn State, on the other hand, uses their bench at one of the lowest rates in the country and rely heavily on their senior players who all play an average of 29.8 minutes per game with Jalen Pickett (35.1) and Andrew Funk (33.5). Although Kebba Njie does start he usually only grabs about 13.8 minutes per game which comes in for 6th best. A familiar name to Purdue fans will be Jameel Brown, who was once committed to the Boilers, averages only 7.3 minutes per game.

Purdue will be able to use their deep bench to their advantage by getting PSU into foul trouble (which leads to the next point) or simply using that depth late in the game when PSU gets tired and Purdue can continue to sub in and out for fresh legs. The key may in fact be the bench providing their usual 23.4 points per game versus PSU only averaging only around 16 points from their consistent bench contributors.

2 | Free Points at the Free Throw Line

Purdue is one of the best teams in the country this year at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line for free points. The Boilers are taking 22.5 free throws per game which is good for 22nd in the country but the key is that this season they are hitting 75.1% of those. That means Purdue is getting nearly 17 points per game from the free throw line which is a huge advantage. When you couple that prevalence of drawing fouls on a team that does not have a deep bench, it can spell trouble quickly if the fouls mount up quickly in the first half.

Penn State just doesn’t take a lot of free throws and that is mainly because of the brand of basketball that they play this year. They shoot an inordinate amount of threes per game at 28.3 per game that ranks 12th highest in the country and the highest for any major conference team (as a comparison, Purdue shoots 23.2 per game and ranks 117th). That style of basketball just lead to a lot of opportunities at the free throw line and should allow Edey to remain out of foul trouble and remain on the floor.

3 | Purdue’s Offensive Rebounding Dominance

Plainly put, Penn State isn’t a great rebounding team and only Wisconsin ranks below them in the B1G this season. Penn State is currently 235th overall in the country at just 34.53 rebounds per game but that may be more about their high level shot making ability than anything else. On the flip side of that though is Purdue who comes into this game at the 9th best rebounding team grabbing an average of 40.93 rebounds per game. Where can Purdue really leverage this advantage? On the offensive glass.

Purdue ranks 27th in the country on the offensive glass where they generate 13.13 offensive rebounds per game. That means Purdue is generally getting 13 more offensive chances for guys like Zach Edey (5.3 per game) and Caleb Furst (2.6) around the bucket where they excel. Purdue has struggled shooting the ball from deep but if they are able to rebound those misses and give Edey, Furst, Gillis, and TKR second and third chances at the rim, it doesn’t bode well for PSU.

4 | BONUS: Defending the 3pt Arc

PSU comes into this game as one of the best three point shooting teams in the country at 38.4% on the season. They boast two starters that all shoot above 40% with Myles Dread shooting above 40% as well getting 22.5 minutes per game. The issue will be when Purdue is able to run PSU shooters off of the arc to not allow them to back down guards Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer in a similar fashion to what Rutgers was able to do. If that’s the case, look for doubles to come to help those two Boilers in the post and force a guard to make a pass out of the post.

Helping Purdue though is that they come into this game allow teams to shoot just 29% from behind the arc and they like to force opponents into shooting mid-range jumpers and floaters in the lane (which are lower percentage shots than threes and shots at the rim). Purdue just needs to continue what they have done defensively all season while also controlling the tempo of the game to ensure they don’t allow bad offensive possessions turn into easy run out buckets and threes from Penn State.