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Purdue Basketball: Penn State Preview

This game shouldn’t be close, but it will be if Purdue continues to struggle on defense.

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

The Pennsylvania State University ( - Ken Pom #63

Basic Information

Location: State College, Pennsylvania

Type of School: Public Land-Grant Research University

Mascot: Nittany Lions

Head Coach - Mike Rhoades

Seasons at Penn State: 1 (including the current season)

Other Head Coaching Jobs:

Rice (2014-2017): 47-52

VCU (2017-2023): 129-61

Career Record: 184-121

Regular Season Conference Championships: 1 (VCU)

Conference Tournament Championships: 1 (VCU)

NCAA Appearances: 3 (0-3)

Final 4 Appearances: 0

Kenpom Style of Play

() = National Ranking per Kenpom


Adj. Efficiency: 107.5 (128)

Avg. Poss. Length: 16 (51)


Adj. Efficiency: 102.4 (116)

Avg. Poss. Length: 17.9 (295)


Adj. Tempo: 71.8 (51)

Kenpom 4 Factors

() = National Ranking per Kenpom


Effective FG%: 49.2 (220)

Turnover %: 15.9 (81)

Off. Reb. %: 28.5 (209)

FTA/FGA: 36.5 (97)


Effective FG%: 50.3 (176)

Turnover %: 23.2 (9)

Off. Reb. %: 33.1 (303)

FTA/FGA: 32.6 (182)


Penn State Starters

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team(s) Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steal Block
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team(s) Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steal Block
Point Guard 1 Ace Baldwin Sr. 6'1" 190 VCU 33.2 13.1 1.9 4.4 2.9 0.3
Shooting Guard 0 Kanye Clary So. 5'11" 195 N/A 30.9 18.8 3.4 2.8 1.1 0.1
Small Forward 24 Zach Hicks Jr. 6'8" 200 Temple 6.3 3.3 1.1 1 0.7
Power Forward 4 Puff Johnson Sr. 6'8" 205 North Carolina 6.6 3.3 0.1 0.9 0.2
Center 22 Qudus Wahab Sr. 6'11" 245 Georgetown/Maryland 9.9 8.6 0.6 0.7 1.4

Penn State Bench

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team(s) Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steal Block
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team(s) Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steal Block
Shooting Guard 2 D'Marco Dunn Jr. 6'5" 195 North Carolina 16.9 7.3 1.9 0.5 0.7 0
Forward 3 Nick Kern Jr. 6'6" 200 VCU 22.9 6.5 4.7 1.5 1 0.7
Power Forward 11 Leo O'Boyle Sr. 6'7" 225 Lafayette 13.4 2.6 1.3 0.3 0.6 0.2
Center 14 Demetrius Lilley So. 6'10" 245 N/A 7.2 2.1 2.1 0.1 0.1 0.1

Penn State on Offense

Kanye Clary is their go-to guy. He’s a 5’11”, 195-pound point guard, and he’s going to need to go crazy to beat Purdue. Luckily for Penn State, the Boilermakers like to let opposing guards go off.

The last 3 games:

  • Maryland: Jahmir Young - 26 points (12-23)
  • Illinois: Marcus Domask - 26 points (8-17)
  • Nebraska: Keisei Tominga - 19 points (5-12)

These are all top-of-the-scouting-report guys that had their way with the Boilermaker defense. Penn State will iso whoever they want (Fletcher Loyer if he’s on the court) and let their best player go one-on-one. Last season Loyer’s defensive win share was 1.3, not great, but better than his current .7 defensive win share. Purdue’s going to let your best guard score.

If you don’t want Fletcher, dialing up Lance Jones isn’t a bad idea. His .8 defensive win share is down from his 2.1 defensive win at Southern Illinois. Braden Smith has been Purdue’s best perimeter defender, but the other team doesn’t have to worry about him locking up their best guard because they can always get a switch to Jones or Loyer.

Let’s be real, Purdue’s defense has been awful over the last 3 quarters.

  • Illinois 2nd half: 46 points
  • Nebraska 1st half: 41 Points
  • Nebraska 2nd half: 47 Points

Defense packed up for the Christmas holiday and is sitting on a beach somewhere.

Purdue let Illinois and Nebraska get into a rhythm and dictate matchups.

Penn State will attempt the same, but they lack the skill at center to pull Zach away from the basket. Wahab is 0-0 from deep this season. I doubt it works. This Penn State team doesn’t have anywhere close to the same skill as Illinois or Nebraska.

At the same time, Purdue isn’t sniffing a deep run in March if their guards don’t start guarding (I’ll get to that in a moment).

Penn State on Defense

Want some indigestion?

Penn State’s turnover% is good for the 9th best in the nation. They press after made baskets and jump into passing lanes. They’re not a good offensive team, but that can change when they’re getting easy looks at the basket in transition. They forced Michigan into 19 turnovers in their win over the Wolverines. Ace Baldwin had 3 steals and pestered Michigan’s guards the entire game.

When the game gets into the half court, I expect to see them attempt the same defense Nebraska used on Edey. They forced him up the lane, let their center play top side, and then put a guard behind him with 1 foot in the paint to stop the lob. Yes, Purdue could simply swing the ball to the unguarded player, but they don’t. Instead, they tried to feed Zach 3⁄4 of the way up the lane and let him make the pass when he’s not trying to hit a hook shot 4 feet further out than he wants. By the time Zach catches it and kicks it out, the sagging guard is already out to his man. He’s in the lane to prevent the lob over the top. Once the lob doesn’t happen, he recovers to his man.

Shout out to Hoiberg, because that’s the way every team should attempt to guard Edey from now. If Purdue isn’t going to punish you for bracketing their center with 2 defenders, why not bracket their center with 2 defenders and hope the Boilermakers fall in love with the 3.

Nebraska also doubled Edey on the offensive glass. They were constantly having a guard get into Zach’s leg while he was fighting off a big man up top. It worked. Zach had 2 offensive boards all night. Nebraska decided to throw everything they had at Edey, and he ended up with one of his worst performances of the season. Mast and Allick put up a combined 24 points. Zach and Caleb combined for 18. Nebraska’s centers outscored Purdue’s centers. That’s never a good sign for the Boilermakers.

Matchup to Watch

Clary vs Purdue

I mentioned it above, but I’ll repeat it real quick. Purdue hasn’t defended a single lead guard in conference play. I didn’t even mention Boo’s 31 points above, but if my math is correct, Purdue is giving up an average of 25.5 points to oppositions’ best guard in conference play.

They’re not volume scoring either; they are shooting a combined 35/72 (48%) against the Boilermakers. Clary is averaging 18 points a game. It sure would be nice if Matt figured a way to shut his water off instead of letting the other team get whatever they want on offense for their best player.

In my mind, perimeter defense, and specifically perimeter defense on the other team’s best player, is Purdue’s biggest potential stumbling block both in-conference and in March. I was told Lance Jones was brought in to give Purdue something on defense. I’d kinda like to see it at some point.




Purdue: 88

Penn State: 67

Confidence: 97%


Purdue: 87

Penn State: 75

Penn State doesn’t have enough offense to beat Purdue, but it sure would be nice if Purdue broke out of their funk on defense.

I’m going to go ahead and say it....DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS.

Purdue is not playing anything close to championship level defense at the moment.