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The Three Pointer: Purdue vs. Eastern Kentucky

The Colonel's enter Mackey Arena with only one victory over a D1 opponent and a 4-8 record.

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Kentucky at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue finishes the non-conference portion of their schedule in one final game before the calendar turns to 2024 against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. EKU enters the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at just 4-8 with their only division one victory over Troy. EKU has played one of the weakest schedules in the country with their only top 130 Kenpom game coming against the Alabama Crimson Tide where the Colonels were beaten 111-67 on December 23rd.

Purdue enters the game 11-1 and ranked as the number one team in the country for the third consecutive year. Led by Zach Edey, the Boilers have built the strongest resume in the country headed into conference play in the new year. According to every metric, this may be Purdue’s easiest game on the schedule as the Colonels rank 263rd on Kenpom (third lowest of Purdue opponents) and 326th in the NET (lowest of all Purdue opponents). Purdue is currently favored by 30 points via Kenpom and are a 98.3% favorite according to ESPN’s BPI.

Let’s get into the ‘The Three Point!’

1 | Define and Develop that Second Line

Purdue knows where the bread is buttered this season with Smith, Loyer, Jones, TKR, Edey, and Gillis but a more defined set of players in those roles after them still needs to find some solidifying heading into the B1G season. Edey, Jones, Smith, and Loyer are all averaging more than 25.4 minutes per game while TKR and Gillis are really splitting their time at the power forward position. But what about Heide and Colvin? That’s where Purdue’s going to have to hope for the most development through a long B1G season.

Both Colvin and Heide have developed nicely so far this season in the roles that they are needed but a game against EKU may be one of the last known chances for them to seemingly garner more than average minutes the rest of the season. Colvin has shown an ability to hit big shots and play up to the level of the competition this year with quality games against high level competition and his season high in points (11) coming in the last game against Jacksonville in 17 minutes of action (a season high).

Heide’s adjustment has been a bit more pronounced this season but he has done some really good things when given a bit more time to adjust in game. Heide has flashed at times in similar ways that Colvin in 12.1 minutes per game this season. Heide is a bit more reserved as a scorer and seeing him become more confident in his shooting like Colvin is would be a welcome development.

Purdue is going to need their young wings to provide some scoring pop at some point in a long B1G season to help Edey, Smith, and Loyer. Helping them develop that confidence in games where they know they can expect some longer minutes helps Purdue’s build toward March.

2 | Get Edey a Double-Double

Matt Painter has praised Zach Edey as an unselfish player who cares more about his rebounding numbers than he does about his points. But let’s be honest, Matt Painter has to have a part of his brain that thinks ‘If we can get Edey a quick double-double and control the game, let’s get him out of a game that largely doesn’t matter.’ A solid double-double for continues Edey along the path of another National Player of the Year candidacy and doing so in efficient and effective manner in the early parts of the second half gives him rest and gives Furst and Berg more chances to develop for next season.

3 | Continue to Move the Ball on Offense

In their last game, the Boilers did a wonderful job of not really letting a blowout impact their effectiveness on offense by taking bad shots for the simple fact of wanting to be selfish. It wouldn’t have much of an impact on the season as a whole but seeing the offense continue to operate in the ways that Matt Painter and PJ Thompson want to see it allows guys down on the depth chart to get quality live reps against someone else other than their teammates.

Purdue’s offense, when you really start to watch other college basketball games, is a thing of beauty. Ball movement, screens, counters, and guys moving without the ball allows Purdue’s offense to stay near the top of the efficiency rankings on nearly every metric imaginable. But that ball movement doesn’t have to just come in the half-court as Matt Painter has really focused on stealing points off turnovers and pushing the ball in transition. A game like this one is a great way to continue that development from an area of the game Purdue has tended to struggle with over the last several years. This year, though, the Boilers continue to be one of the most efficient teams in transition as they rank 9th in efficiency in transition at 65.8%.

And 1 | Let’s See a Zach Edey 3!

Man, if the big man were to hit one of these it would be incredible. Zach has worked on his outside game and his ability to shoot free throws at the percentage he has for his career shows his has some ability to hit those shots. The thing is, Zach understands that Purdue has better shooters than him and he has better shots for himself inside. He has zero ego and doesn’t feel he has a need to hit them to prove it to any one but if EKU starts dropping further and further back on him like Jacksonville did to prevent the cuts and screens off ball, don’t be surprised to see Zach turn and find himself with plenty of room to square up and fire a three ball off. If it goes it, Mackey’s dB record would be in jeopardy if it comes within the confines of some big plays and a big run by Purdue.

Player to Watch:

Indianapolis native Leland Walker is a graduate of North Central High School and is proving to be a very quality player for the Colonels. After taking a prep year at Hargrave Military in Virginia, the 6’1 point guard has improved his overall game from his freshman to sophomore year. Walker averages 14.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.3 steals while shooting 29.5% from behind the arc (down from 32.2% as a freshman). He also shoots free throws at an impressive 86.7% clip. He may be a player Purdue keeps tabs on with the landscape of college basketball changing as transfers can now happen every year for undergrads.

Prediction:

This is another game where Purdue could very well jump out to a 30-10 lead before the 10 minute mark of the first half and cruises from there. Not much to say here other than it is a great chance for young players and guys like Chase Martin and Carsen Barrett to get some well deserved extended minutes late in the game. Get Edey his double double to improve his NPOY candidacy and maybe see some dunks from Heide and Colvin.

Purdue: 98
EKU: 61