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Matchups to Watch | Purdue vs. Penn State

The #1 Boilers look to improve to 22-1 against Jalen Pickett and the Nittany Lions

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

With their dominating win against the Michigan State Spartans at home, Purdue moved to 21-1 on the season and took a three game lead in the B1G race (thanks in part to Iowa) and became the first unanimous #1 this season. Purdue was led by Zach Edey’s dominating 38 points and 13 rebounds along with the late clock heroics of David Jenkins Jr. while their defense was able to limit a talented Spartans team to just 61 points.

Penn State (14-7, 5-5) enters their return game to Mackey Arena shooting a blistering 38.5% from beyond the arc this season as a team but lack the scoring punch outside of Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy. Penn State struggled to contain Zach Edey who scored 30 points but also got 17 points from Fletcher Loyer and 15 from Braden Smith.

Let’s get into the important matchups!

1 | Rebounding, Rebounding, Rebounding

One of Purdue’s overwhelming advantages that they have enjoyed this year is their rebounding on both ends of the court as the Boilers have only been outrebounded in two games this season (Marquette & at MSU). This becomes a major key in this game because Purdue is the #1 rebounding team in the B1G this season at 39.5 rebounds per game versus Penn State who ranks 13th at 33.3. Penn State also ranks 12th in the number of rebounds they give up per game at 36 bodes well for the Boilers who have one of the country’s most dominate rebounders in Zach Edey but also rebound well a the guard positions with Braden Smith and Brandon Newman.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue averages a +11.1 rebounding advantage over their opponents and Purdue should have no trouble hitting that mark against Penn State. If Purdue can get to +18 in that regard, then I’m not sure Penn State will be able to battle back from that.

2 | Zach Edey vs. Kebba Njie & Others

Penn State is one of the smaller teams in major college basketball and that means Zach Edey is going to have an instant advantage in the post. Penn State’s tallest player is true freshman Kebba Njie who is 6’10 and 237 pounds. The next guy who Micah Shrewsberry really employed to defend Edey was 6’4 Seth Lundy who, albeit I’m sure he worked hard, is in an absolutely massive disadvantage. Edey should be given ample opportunities to get the ball in his spots to score very near the rim, especially if the wings and guards for Purdue can consistently hit open shots from behind the arc.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Penn State Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The key to preventing the double teams from coming against Penn State tonight may simply be Edey getting his position as deep as possible because there just isn’t room to double that close. That was something that he was able to easily do in the first matchup and my guess is that Purdue will want to run as much action to get him that position that buries Njie, Lundy, and whoever else has the job of defending Edey. This isn’t a team with a Hunter Dickinson or a Cliff Omoruyi who is able to hold their position, rather Njie just doens’t have the size to push Edey out to 10 feet or more.

In the first matchup, Purdue ran a lot of high ball screen action for Braden Smith using Edey as the screener as Penn State just doesn’t appear to have the on ball defenders to stop that consistently. If Penn State rotates too much help inside to stop Smith getting to the rim or from Edey rolling down the lane, they leave Loyer and others open at the three point line.

Look for Edey to have another big day as he continues to lead the National Player of the Year and getting another game with twenty or more shot attempts. If he is going to get that many shots right at the rim, it is likely Edey has another 20 point night with 10 or more rebounds.

3 | Jalen Pickett vs. Ethan Morton

Pickett is going to be a first team All B1G player which would be just the 7th different player to achieve that for the Nittany Lions. I would even argue that Pickett may garner the program’s first ever All American honors as the guard is averaging 17.6 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. Needless to say, Pickett is the not only the engine that makes that team go but he is also the driver. Purdue is going to try and limit what Pickett can do off the dribble as a facilitator for his teammates like Seth Lundy, Andrew Funk, and Myles Dread.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Penn State Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue will counter what Pickett can do by putting Morton on him to use his length and size (6’4 vs. 6’7) to make it difficult for the transfer guard to get going like he did in the first game. When Morton is off the floor, Purdue will likely go to Brandon Newman and Braden Smith as both have shown improvement through the season to be on ball defenders. The issue with defending Pickett is that he is very good at getting players on his hip and then manipulating the defense by getting into the lane and either forcing extra help or hitting jump shots and floaters. The issue for Penn State is that, unlike MSU, they don’t have different guys who can score in that manner that really puts Purdue in a bind defensively.

The key for the Boilers will be to limit Pickett’s effectiveness in helping his teammates get going. Similar to when Loyer, Smith, and even Jenkins all get going along with Edey, Penn State gets very difficult to beat when Pickett’s supporting cast is able to start hitting shots off his play.


Penn State is one of those teams that, although they have struggled a bit in Micah Shrewsberry’s second season, they have enough to beat just about anyone in the country when their shots from outside are falling at a high rate. The key for Purdue is going to be matching Edey’s ability inside with effectiveness from beyond the arc and limiting turnovers. If Purdue can get to that efficient and effective mark of 35% from beyond the arc and minimize their turnovers to 10 or less, Purdue should win and look forward to a huge matchups against the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall.

Purdue: 75

Penn State: 64