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The Three Pointer: Purdue vs. Northwestern

The Boilers take to the road for their first time this season when they take on the Wildcats of Northwestern

NCAA Basketball: Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Championship Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Purdue Boilermakers will travel to take on the Northwestern Wildcats in their first true road game of the season. This will start off the most anticipated B1G season in program history as the Boilers have ascended to the #1 ranking after their championship run at the Maui Invitational. Northwestern is a talented team led by 6th year senior Boo Buie and bolstered by Lafayette Jefferson alumni Brooks Barnhizer.

Let’s get in to the ‘Three Pointer!’

1 | Limit Good Looks for Boo Buie

Boo Buie is one of the best point guards in not only the B1G but also the country. The speedy and veteran guard is averaging 18.5 points and 3.5 assists per game but a lot of his points come off his ability to generate shots for himself. It is likely that Lance Jones starts off on Buie to put the Boilers best on ball defender on their best offensive weapon.

Northwestern will run a lot of high ball screen actions to force Edey out and away from the rim but don’t be surprised if Purdue uses Furst in a such a way that allows him to be the big in that situation as well. Furst has shown a great ability in his hard hedging of high ball screens that prevents guards from getting down hill. It also helps that Northwestern’s bigs are not major threats from beyond the arc so that doesn’t put Edey in as much of a bad situation as it could.

Buie isn’t going to be stopped but holding him in check or making him take 14 to 15 shots to get to his average would be helpful.

2 | Handle Northwestern’s Aggressive Play Style

Last year Northwestern was able to force Purdue to play really uncomfortable in both of their games against them. Purdue just seemed to really struggle when teams tried to get into them on the wings to prevent the wings and guards from getting good looks on passes to Edey. They also fouled in inordinate amount that simply didn’t get called. It’s likely Chris Collins will look to use that same strategy against the Boilers this season as well.

Purdue has had a penchant for turning the ball over a bit too much this season and allowing some transition opportunities off of those turnovers. However, if they can handle Tennesee and Marquette playing the style of defense they want to play, they should be able to handle Northwestern as well. The growth of Braden Smith and the addition of Lance Jones means Purdue has the ability to go a bit quicker in their offense to force an opponent out of their pressure with quick scores in transition.

Purdue needs to limit their turnovers and force Northwestern into foul trouble by being strong with the ball and making good, strong passes. If they do that, Northwestern will have a difficult time beating a better Purdue squad than what they faced last season.

3 | Get to the Foul Line and Make Your Free Throws

Northwestern is averaging giving up 15 free throws on the season along with fouling 16.2 times per game (102nd). Not a bad average but when you are going up against a team that draws some of the most fouls in the country and a player like Zach Edey who has shot more free throws himself than multiple teams, that might become a problem. Purdue has done an excellent job of getting itself to the free throw line averaging 26.6 attempts per game (t-22nd) but have done a poor job of hitting those attempts.

So far, Purdue is shooting just 69.35% from the free throw line as a team meaning they are leaving nearly 8 points per game on the floor from missing free throws. That may not seem like a lot but many times they are missing the front end of a 1 and 1 which is essentially missing a second as well. Plainly put, Purdue needs to do a better job of converting those free throws, especially when it comes to extending leads against a team that struggles with depth.

And 1 | Zach Edey Needs 15 Shot Attempts

Let’s just put this out there: Northwestern doesn’t have any one that can defend Zach Edey. That is likely something that most teams in the country are going to struggle with but the key differences this year is that Purdue is shooting a combined 42.8% from behind the arc to pair with him. In fact, Purdue’s four other starters are all shooting a combined 44.1%. This is a team that is going to make you pay if you decide to double or triple team Zach on the inside and they have proven the ability to do so.

When teams finally decide that they can’t just give up those open threes anymore and Purdue continues to move Zach around more to get him into those one on one matchups, he is going to feast on the inside. If Zach is hitting his shots like he has shown he is capable and he gets 15 shot attempts, we could see Edey’s first really big game of the season.

Players to Watch:

#0 Boo Bouie | Guard | Senior | 6’2 180 | 18.5 pts, 2.7 reb, 3.5 ast, 40% 3pt

Bouie is one of the best guards in the B1G but he has a little less help this season than he did last year with Chase Audige leaving the program. He is a guard who can lead the show for the Wildcats and dominate a game on both ends of the floor as a scorer and on ball defender.

#13 Brooks Barnhizer | Guard | Junior | 6’6 215 | 15.3 pts, 8.3 reb, 2.5 ast, 2.0 stl

Barnhizer has stepped into that secondary role vacated by Chase Audige and has shown an immense amount of improvement. The big guard plays more like a wing for the Wildcats but is a scorer and hard nosed defender. He also plays a team high 35.5 minutes per game this season.

#34 Matthew Nicholson | Center | Senior | 7’ 255 | 5.3 pts, 3.7 reb, 3.2 ast, 1.7 blk

Nicholson splits minutes when Northwestern wants to go small ball but does get 22.3 minutes per game. That may have to go up against the Boilers with Edey at 7’4 and TKR manning the middle as another elite post player. It’s likely that Northwestern will try to go to a small ball lineup where Nick Martenelli or Brooks Barnhizer at the 5 to spread Purdue out but that likely means Purdue is going to get wide open looks inside as that means the Wildcats’ tallest player would be 6’7. Nicholson may have to play 30 minutes if he is able to.

Prediction:

This is a game that I think Purdue really wants considering how the game in Evanston finished last season. If you don’t remember, Purdue lost 64-58 in a game that resembled more of a street fight than anything else and the Boilers shot just 5-22 from behind the arc. It was also a game where Head Coach Chris Collins physically grabbed Fletcher Loyer after the ball was put in play as you can see below.

Northwestern is a good team but not on the level of the Boilermakers this season. They may end up being an NCAA Tourney team around the 8 to 9 line but this Purdue team seems like they have some bones to pick with certain teams. Northwestern just happens to be first up.

Purdue: 77
Northwestern: 67