The Purdue Boilermakers will face their fifth different program that reached last year’s NCAA Tournament when they face off against Texas Southern from the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Tigers were a ‘First Four’ team that lost to Fairleigh-Dickinson and then clearly nothing of significance happened after that.
The Boilers return back to Mackey Arena from their early season defining trip to the Maui Invitational where they won three games in a row against what are now top 10 Kenpom teams in the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Tennessee Volunteers, and Marquette Golden Eagles. The Boilers will square off against the Tigers ahead of another big four game stretch where they will face Northwestern, Iowa, Alabama, and Arizona, who all project to be NCAA Tourney teams.
With some of the pleasantries out of the way, let’s step back and take a shot at the keys in ‘The Three Pointer.’
1 | Take Care of the Ball
This is a pretty simple one to wrap your head around but one of the ways these kinds of teams have given Purdue problems in the last three NCAA Tourneys has been their inability to take care of the ball. In Purdue’s last three NCAA losses they have averaged 14 turnovers and many of those were of the ‘pick 6’ variety that led directly to transition points. Those are bad turnovers that, for a team like Purdue, allow opponents to get easy buckets. Purdue is too good when they can control the tempo to allow that to happen.
So far this season, Purdue has done an ok job of taking care of the basketball as Braden Smith has shown an immense amount of growth in his decision making and Lance Jones has shown a steady ability to take over duties when necessary. The issue has come from players that are not primary ball handlers having multiple turnovers, which simply shouldn’t happen. Keeping turnovers to a minimum is paramount to Purdue’s ability to control tempo and grind teams down with their overall talent but there will be games that naturally happen where Purdue sneaks into that 14 to 15 range. That’s where the bad ones have to be limited to prevent runs, shifts in momentum, and preventing Purdue from extending their leads.
2 | Leverage The Advantage on the Glass to an Overwhelming Obstacle
Purdue has the ability to out rebound almost anyone in the country simply because they have Zach Edey. What they also have is a team concept where five other players seeing major minutes are grabbing 3 or more rebounds per game. Purdue’s ability to own the glass, specifically on the offensive end, is one that can legitimately win them games when they aren’t shooting well. For example, in the Marquette game Purdue grabbed 13 offensive rebounds which led to 20 second chance points. When compared to Marquette’s 5 and 4 in the same regard, you can see how that portion single handily won Purdue the game.
Purdue has some significant advantages over almost every other team this year and rebounding should be the one they can leverage the most. In a game such as this, against an overmatched opponent, Purdue needs to take an advantage and make it an overwhelming obstacle like they did against Marquette.
3 | Have a ‘Kill Shot’ Run
One area that Purdue has really struggled in so far is getting a run where they can take control of a game and push a lead of 8 to 10 points and push it into an insurmountable lead. There have been multiple times this season where Purdue has had a chance to push a lead and just failed to have that sort of ‘kill shot’ run that buried an opponent. That sort of killer instinct is a step this team needs to take to push itself over the hump.
Against Marquette, Purdue had multiple chances to take double digit leads and push them into bigger leads but had scoring droughts and bad turnovers prevent them from doing so. When Purdue was able to push their lead to 15 early in the second half, Purdue allowed a big 20-8 run from Marquette over the course of 8 minutes. Purdue had the chance to run away with the game but instead went cold, had bad turnovers, and lapses on defense led to Marquette keeping itself in the game.
The same thing happened when Purdue was able to rebound from allowing that 15 points lead to shrink to just 3 to extend the lead back to 10 points with 6:07 remaining off a Lance Jones three pointer. Purdue would go on to only score 6 points in the final six minutes while Marquette ramped up their defensive pressure and intensity and got the lead down to just one with under a minute to play before a Zach Edey tip in sealed the game for Purdue with 16 seconds left.
Being able to take those big leads and pushing them into the realm of insurmountable takes an intent focus to continue doing what got you that lead and not allowing the intensity of the moment allow you to do something outside of your ability or the game plan. Purdue can some times get outside of itself and sometimes continuing to force a team to defend you for a full 25 to 30 seconds before getting another bucket is overwhelming enough.
And 1 | Let’s See Some Young Guys Get Minutes
This is a game where Purdue would really like to see guys like Cam Heide and Myles Colving get a chance to really loosen up their legs with extended minutes to get a gauge on where they can best help the team this year. Colvin and Heide have had some really good minutes at times this season but really need extended minutes on the floor with Edey, Jones, Smith, Loyer, and whoever is at the power forward position to be able to be comfortable when the calendar turns towards March. This one of the few games where that seems realistic to game plan for on the schedule.
Players to Watch:
#3 PJ Henry | Guard | Senior | 5’10 165 | 13.3 pts, 2.8 reb, 2 ast 35% 3pt
Henry is the only player for Texas Southern to average in double figures and is likely the only major scoring threat the Boilers will need to worry about. No other player for the Tigers averages more than 8.7 points.
#2 Jahmar Young | Forward | Senior | 6’9 215 | 6.8 pts, 8 reb
Likely the first guy to draw the assignment of guarding Edey in the post, he will likely get help from one to two more players on every post entry pass. Texas Southern likely won’t make it easy for the Boilermaker big man but Young is one of the bigger players Texas Southern has that pays on a consistent basis.
This is a game that shouldn’t be close at all and very well could be another one of those games that sees the Boilers start the game with a 15 to 20 points lead gained by the 10 minute mark of the first half. That is going to be a great advantage to get more minutes for lineups to gain an understanding of one another and time to work the kinks out for young guys like Heide and Colvin. The biggest things holding those guys back is just logging minutes alongside the other guys that will be playing major minutes.
Edey will likely have a double-double before the first half ends, Smith nails a couple of runners and layups off ball screen action, and Lance Jones hits one from around Crawfordsville to bring the Mackey crowd to their feet. This is a great setup game between Maui and a big four game stretch for the Boilers to solidify themselves as the unquestioned best team in college basketball this season.
Texas Southern: 58