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The Three Pointer: Purdue vs. Penn State

The Boilers will look to bounce back after a disappointing second loss on the season

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing outcome against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Purdue Boilermakers will return to Mackey Arena against the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Boilers, who already have two losses in the B1G, need to go on a bit of a streak to remain within distance of the Wisconsin Badgers who are 4-0. Although Purdue does have two losses, those losses are both on the road have come against top-70 NET teams in Northwestern (69th) and Nebraska (42nd) where they have turned the ball over 30 times combined in both games (NW-17; Neb-13).

Purdue is 14-2 or better for the third straight season and it is the seventh time under Head Coach Matt Painter that the Boilers have started as such or better. A win against Penn State, moving Purdue to 15-2, would be the first time in program history that they have started 15-2 in three consecutive seasons. The Boilers also lead the country in NET Quad 1 wins with 6 and Quad 1 & 2 wins combined with 9 and have the best resume in the country right now.

Zach Edey now has 1,013 total rebounds in his career, ranking him 2nd all time behind Joe Barry Carroll. Edey currently has 1,882 total points and looks to continue moving up the program’s all time scoring list throughout the season. If Edey continues to average his current season scoring average through the rest of the season (15 regular season games, 1 B1G Tourney game, and 1 NCAA Tourney game), he will finish the season with 2,252 points. That would leave Edey just 71 points short of Rick Mount’s total of 2,323. Edey currently is averaging 21.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 2.3 blocks per game and is ranked as the number one player in Kenpom’s ‘National Player of the Year’ standings.

The Nittany Lions enter the game 8-8 but just one game behind the Boilers in the standings at 2-3. They still hold onto a slim hope for an NCAA Tourney bid but lack the significant victories to get them into at-large consideration. The Lions are 0-3 in Q1 games and 1-2 in Q2 and ranked 126th in the NET but could get a major resume boost with a victory against the #1 ranked Boilermakers. They are led by duo of guards in Ace Baldwin and Kanye Clary who combine for nearly 42% of the production from PSU overall.

Let’s get into ‘The Three Pointer!’

1 | Get Edey More Looks

This is a pretty easy one to see if you are the Boilermakers. The nation’s best player should be taking the most shots on this team on a game to game basis and if that means forcing the ball into him at times, that what it means. Edey has to do a bit more of his part by staying on the court more than he has over the last two games by staying out of foul trouble, but he also needs to get better position in the low block.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last two games, the Illini and Cornhuskers did a great job in pushing Edey out further than he was comfortable to force some bad shots or prevent him from being effective. When Edey gets better position established for himself closer to the rim, the double teams are harder to execute because he is closer to scoring and it forces defenders to be further from their help responsibilities. Some of that is on Edey but it is also on his teammates as well to make sure spacing continues to prevent easy doubles and they must also provide themselves as scoring threats.

Edey will need to get at least 12 shots onto the rim because when Edey and Purdue are at their best, it’s when Edey is controlling the interior and forcing an opponent into bad rotations and into foul trouble. When that is taken away, Purdue simply isn’t as good of a team and can be beaten.

2 | Don’t Turn the Ball Over

Penn State doesn’t do many things well this season as they rank near the bottom or in the bottom half of most team statistics. The one thing they lead the B1G in, though, is turnover margin. The Nittany Lions are turning teams over an average of 16.8 times per game while only turning it over 11.5 times per game for an turnover margin of +5.25. That mark ranks them 7th overall in the country and 4th amongst teams considered in power conferences (ACC, B1G, Big 12, SEC, PAC, Big East).

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

The key is to not allow a team who is obviously operating a talent deficit who also struggles shooting from the outside to be given as strong of an advantage as turning the ball over 16 times or more. If that happens, Purdue will be in big time trouble as they have averaged 15.5 turnovers and have given up 38 points off those turnovers as well (NW-20; Neb-18). Purdue needs to stay under 12 turnovers per game and limit the amount of points generated off of those turnovers if they want to put themselves in the best position possible in March.

3 | Dominate the Glass, Especially Offensively

Plainly put, Penn State is not a good rebound team overall. That can be due to a lot of different factors and Penn State doesn’t really lack overall height as they have two players standing 6’11 and others who play consistent minutes between 6’7 and 6’8. Some times a team can just be a poor rebounding team overall and that’s what appears to be the issue for Penn State.

Penn State is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country on a number of different metrics but most notably they are ranked 314th in overall rebounds and 303rd in offensive rebounding % when they are on defense. That offensive rebounding % while on defense is a staggering difference between the two programs as Purdue ranks 34th allowing 24.8% while Penn State’s number is 33.1%. Purdue’s offensive rebounding percentage of 36.6% places them 20th and is a way the Boilers can dominate this game.

This should be a state where Purdue has a +12 rebounding advantage when the game is over. If it is even or somehow Penn State out rebounds Purdue, it likely means Purdue shot the lights out (not leaving many rebound opportunities) or the Boilers are struggling.

And 1 | Is There A Starting 5 Shake-up?

Matt Painter was saying the quiet part out loud in the second half of the Boilers game against Nebraska when he didn’t start Trey Kaufman-Renn and Fletcher Loyer, instead going with Mason Gillis and Cam Heide. It wasn’t that those two started the second half but that Loyer got only 7 minutes of playing time and TKR got 4 minutes of playing time. Heide ended up playing 22 minutes against Nebraska, a season high for him, while having a team best +10 when he was on the floor (+/- can be a bit deceiving because Heide may have just not played when Nebraska made their big runs, but it is interesting to note that he, Colvin, and Furst were the only players that had a + rating in that Nebraska game).

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

It is doubtful that Matt Painter shakes up the starting lineup with two new starters but I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility to see someone replaced. Many might think it would be Heide considering he gives Purdue a lot of the same as Loyer does as he is shooting 50% from behind the arc (9/18) and is a better defensive asset, but I’m not sure that would be the move. In all honesty, I think after seeing TKR’s success as a primary low post scorer against Illinois with Edey in foul trouble, a move that flips he and Gillis in the starting lineup is more likely.

Why would I think that to be the case? Well, Gillis is currently getting more minutes per game than TKR and Furst’s role has appeared to be a bit uneven of late. Moving Gillis into the starting five where he provides a bit more shooting from outside and flexibility defensively while also moving Furst and TKR into more natural roles of being interchangeable also makes Purdue better.

Mason has played his way into getting more minutes and he should be getting 25 or more a game. The others need to get sorted out a bit more but that appears to be what is best for this team moving forward.

Players to Watch:

Kanye Clary | #0 | Guard | 5’11 192 | Soph | 18.8 pts, 3.4 reb, 2.8 ast, 1.2 stl, 36.7% 3pt

The sophomore guard has made a massive leap from his freshman year where he averaged just 3.9 points per game but was limited a bit with veterans ahead of him. Clary is proving to be one of the better scorers in the conference this season and is shooting 7% better from behind the arc than he did last season. This is likely the matchup for Lance Jones.

Ace Baldwin | #1 | Guard | 6’ 190 | Senior | 13.1 pts, 1.9 reb, 4.4 ast, 2.9 stl, 27% 3pt

The senior transfer from VCU is playing some of his best overall basketball this season but his earmark has been his defensive ability. The guard is averaging 2.9 steals per game and leads the B1G in that category by almost a full steal. That is where the guard can really control a game from the defensive side of the ball. This is likely the matchup for Braden Smith.

Prediction:

Purdue: 84
Penn State: 70

Purdue needed a bit of a get right game after a little bit of a struggle at the end of the Illinois game and a full game of struggle against Nebraska, so the Penn State game comes at an opportune time. Purdue needs to get back to the fundamentals of what makes them really good defensively and an elite offensive team. They got away from some of that at times against Illinois and then really got away from that against Nebraska so what better way to do that than a home game that sees the return of the Paint Crew after 40 days away.

Edey needs to return to being the focal point of the offense with ensuring he gets deep post position and Smith needs to return to his ability to attack off ball screens vertically and not being pushed east and west. Really, Purdue needs to get back on track from what made them so damn good early in the season as the things we are seeing are really the ebbs and flows of a long college basketball season. The question this season is how adept are the Boilers to getting themselves back on track this season whereas last year it seemed it was a slow motion spiral that never got corrected once February ended.