The Boilers solved one of the riddles they have struggled with over the last few seasons by beating the Rutgers Scarlett Knights in their first game of the B1G Tourney Friday night to advance to the semi-finals against a suddenly surging Ohio State Buckeyes team who were without Zed Key (shoulder injury) and Brice Sensabaugh (knee soreness).
Let’s get into the matchups!
1 | Purdue’s Bench Production vs. OSU’s Bench Production
In their game against Rutgers, Purdue got 21 points from their bench compared to just 8 from Rutgers. That type of stat line is what wins games when you are in the late season tourneys. Players like Ethan Morton and David Jenkins, Jr. provide leadership and knowledge in situations that can’t be had without experience. Also in that grouping is Caleb Furst who gained valuable experience last season and can be a player who suddenly scores 10 points and has 6 rebounds in a game to push the Boilers over the top.
OSU bench has been needed to step into starting roles with the injuries to Zed Key and Brice Sensabaugh, and although there is still no news surrounding Sensabaugh’s status against the Boilers, I would think caution would rule the day. Sensabaugh missed his entire junior season in high school due to a meniscus tear that required two surgeries to repair. With a likely exit to the NBA in the coming weeks, caution will likely be used and my best guess would be Sensabaugh sits for this game as well. That means a short bench at OSU will need to provide some scoring threat, especially if the Boilers get the Buckeye starters into foul trouble.
2 | Zach Edey versus OSU’s Lack of Size
This might be one of the most clear mismatches in terms of size that Edey will face in the B1G. Felix Okpara is 6’11 but at just 220 pounds and the only player taller than 6’7 who receives extended minutes at all, any sort of foul trouble to him will be incredibly costly to OSU’s chances. This is nothing new as Edey faced this same team earlier in the season twice without Zed Key but OSU brought a very aggressive double team to handle Edey’s size. If that is the case again today, the best case for Edey is to be patient and allow the perimeter players to move the ball quickly around within their sets to get him one on one situations where he can go score quickly.
The other piece that will be incredibly helpful for the Boilers is Edey’s ability to dominate the glass against a team that rebounds the ball very well for lacking overall team height. If Edey can be close to 20 total rebounds and grab 5+ offensive rebounds to extend possessions and get second chance scoring opportunities, Purdue holds an incredible advantage by limiting possessions and gaining more on their end.
3 | Purdue’s 3pt Defense vs. OSU’s 3pt Shooting
Purdue has one of the best 3pt shooting defense in the country ranking 34th in the country allowing teams to shoot just 31.1% from behind the arc. At the other end of that, OSU is one of the better 3pt shooting teams in the country shooting 36.6% as a team. OSU is led by Sensabaugh but if he is out, look for Sean McNeil to look for more shots as he shoots 38.2% from behind the arc. Bruce Thornton is also starting to connect better from 3 and with more potential opportunities, the 37.7% shooter from 3 could provide a major boost for the Buckeyes like he did against Michigan State.
Purdue has gone to RS Junior Brandon Newman late in the season by inserting him into the starting lineup and we are now seeing more defensive focus with Ethan Morton placed alongside Newman more and more.
It will be interesting to see if Sensabaugh plays today but if he is unable to go, it means Purdue has one less dynamic scorer to worry about from Ohio State. If that’s the case, I don’t think OSU will be able to maintain the level they have been playing at for a 4th consecutive day without feeling the effects of being tired. If Purdue can take them out of the game early and not let OSU’s adrenaline to carry them through the game, Purdue should be able to control from start to finish. They need to start well to get that though.