Game Preview: Penn State Men’s Basketball vs. Purdue (Palestra)
The Penn State Nittany Lions travel to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers in the Palestra Game on Sunday, Jan. 8.
This marks the third time in program history that the blue and white utilized the home of the Penn Quakers as a neutral site to take on a Big Ten opponent. Back in 2017, Penn State defeated Michigan State 72-63, and took down the No. 23 Iowa Hawkeyes 89-86 in 2020.
Now sitting at 11-4 on the year, Penn State aims to make a statement win over the Boilermakers and carry that momentum into the grit and grind of the Big Ten.
Last Time Out
The Nittany Lions traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan, only to fall to the Wolverines 79-69 on Wednesday. Senior-plus guard Jalen Pickett led all scorers with 26 points, along with nine rebounds and four assists.
The game was set on runs, with Michigan rattling off a 13-2 run to start. Penn State countered with a 17-11 run, before the Wolverines swung the momentum in their favor with a 11-3 run.
Penn State would climb back into the game, but could not overcome the 46.6% shooting clip Michigan had.
Four starters managed to score in double figures for the Wolverines, compared to Penn State’s two. Those two starters for the Nittany Lions are the aforementioned Pickett and senior forward Seth Lundy, who had 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting with five rebounds.
Scouting No. 1 Purdue
The No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers currently sit at 14-1, coming off a gritty 71-69 victory over the No. 24 Ohio State Buckeyes. Their lone loss of the year came on Monday at home against unranked Rutgers.
Leading the charge for the team is the 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, who averages 21.3 points per game, 13.2 rebounds per game and 28 blocks. A member of the Wooden Midseason Top 25, Edey has gained national attention and campaigns to be the National Player of the Year.
Alongside Edey is a duo of freshmen that can provide valuable minutes for head coach Matt Painter. Guard Fletcher Loyer, brother to Davidson’s Foster Loyer, has been a value on the perimeter, shooting at a 33% clip from downtown. Guard Braden Smith has been a threat at the point for Purdue, posting 9.4 points per game with a 43% clip from 3-point land and 57 assists to his name.
One thing Purdue boasts is depth by going four deep on the bench, giving time for its starters to rest up before crunch time. With veteran pieces like Mason Gillis and Brandon Newman coming off the bench, Painter can obtain outlets to provide valuable minutes before things turn south for the squad.
Keys to the Game
It may sound better in theory, but with the offense running through Edey, the idea is to make his life difficult in the paint. The Nittany Lions have not been the best on the interior defensively, but managing to crowd the seven-footer and get him frustrated can lead to foul trouble.
Penn State managed to do that in its first matchup against the Boilermakers since Shrewsberry was hirerd. The Nittany Lions limited Edey to six points, six rebounds and four fouls, which aided to a near comeback for Penn State. Getting Edey out of the picture can create chaos for Purdue, potentially having to rely on the outside to make up for their lack of inside production.
This can provide a relief for the interior guys like freshman forward Kebba Njie and senior-plus forward Mikey Henn to worry about manageable assignments and help out their counterparts on the perimeter.
As always, Penn State needs to take advantage of its 3-point shooting. Early on, the team managed to hit 40% or better from three over the course of the year, but now have shot over 40% from downtown only once in the last four games, that being in the 83-79 victory over Iowa.
If Penn State’s shooters get hot from the perimeter, the Palestra will be alive. If not, it could be a long drive home for the Nittany Lions and their fans.
Jonathan Draeger is a third-year broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Third Year / Broadcast Journalism