Lost in the midst of the bowl game was a recap of PSU's 68-56 loss on the road at Northwestern. The Lions scrapped the whole game, but just couldn't get the ball in the basket once again. They were helped by some poor play by the Wildcats and ridiculous offensive rebounding in the first half to take a 3 point lead into halftime. However, Drew Crawford and Dave Sobolewski kick-started NW's offense in the second half and the Wildcats won going away. The Lions had no one capable of stopping either player's aggressive drives to the basket. Chambers tried a few zone looks to counter their penetration, but that predictably led to open threes for Northwestern. They shot 85.7% eFG% in the 2nd half, which obviously ended the game.
Penn State will have to look to a 2 game homestand this week for their first conference win. They host the Purdue Boilermakers on Thursday at 8 PM on the Big Ten Network. Purdue already is 2-0 in the conference with wins against Iowa on the road and at home against Illinois. They went 10-3 in the non-conference with losses to Alabama, Xavier, and Butler.
As a team, Purdue's biggest strength is their ability to not turn the ball over. They rank 3rd in KenPom in offensive TO% at just 14.3%. Both their offense and defense rank in the Top30 KenPom efficiency ratings. They are one of the Big Ten's faster teams, averaging 68.4 possessions/game in their first two conference games. Otherwise, across the board Purdue is solid but not elite. They shoot and defend well, but they don't rank in the Top50 in KenPom's ratings in any of the other four factors.
The senior-laden Boilers are led by Robbie Hummel, who has returned to full health from his 2nd ACL tear. He's averaging 16.5 PPG and 6.2 RPG, while he has the 6th best individual TO rate in the country (6.1). Senior Lewis Jackson has had his best season yet, scoring (10.3 PPG), rebounding (3.7 RPG), assisting (29.6 ARate), and getting to the foul line (61.7 FTR). Fellow senior Ryne Smith has been the best 3-point shooter in the conference, averaging 3PM a game (46.3%).
The Boilermakers have a nice rotation that goes 5 deep off the bench. They get great contributions outside of their starting lineup. For example, 6-5 junior DJ Byrd has averaged 11.3 PPG in his last three games and had a big role in their first two conference wins. The biggest weakness in Purdue's team is the 5-spot. Between Sandi Marcius, Travis Carroll, and Jacob Lawson, none of them have been able to come close to replacing JaJuan Johnson. Marcius has missed the last 3 games with a left calf injury, and it doesn't seem likely he'll play against PSU. The true freshmen Lawson has started in his place the last three games.
Simply put, for PSU to win they need to take advantage of an apparent rebounding advantage and cure some of their shooting woes in the BJC. It could also get ugly if PSU isn't ready to face Purdue's ball pressure, which has always caused PSU problems. KenPom gives PSU a 18% chance of winning this one, so if Penn State pulls it off, it'll be a nice upset.