|Who:||Purdue Boilermakers (7-8, 1-2)|
|TV:||Big Ten Network|
There's no rest for the weary. After what Pat Chambers' flat-out called an 'embarrassing' loss at home to Northwestern, the Nittany Lions look to get back to basics in West Lafayette tomorrow.
It's anybody's guess where Penn State goes from here after bottoming out, at home nonetheless, in just their third conference game. It'll only get worse if they let their aimless performance Thursday night affect their effort and confidence down the road, but it's unimaginable that we will witness such a lackadaisical effort from Chambers' team again.
Purdue is one of the youngest teams in the conference now that the last of the Baby Boilers have graduated. They start two true freshman and have six underclassmen contributing in the rotation. They've had their own struggles this season with losses to the likes of Bucknell, Oregon State, and Eastern Michigan. So far in conference play, they're 1-2 with a nice home win over the fast-fading Illini and losses to Ohio State and Michigan State.
Their all-Johnson backcourt is led by junior Terone, who is leading the Boilers at 13.7 PPG. True freshman Ronnie Johnson has been given the reigns to the offense and is playing like a true freshmen point guard. There's good (assist rate, free throw rate) with the bad (all forms of shooting), but he is averaging nearly 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists a game.
DJ Byrd is the lone senior for Purdue and continues to make the hustle-plays and big threes that earned him Big Ten sixth man of the year last year. He has more made three-pointers (31) on the year than the rest of his team combined (30). Joining him in the front court is their promising 7-footer, AJ Hammons, who's averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds in his first season in West Lafayette. The 280-pounder will be a handful for Penn State's smaller front-line.
On paper, both teams match-up quite similarly. Neither team has much punch offensively, as both are shooting around 45% eFG% thanks to <30% 3-point shooting. Fortunately for Purdue, they don't jack them up nearly as often as Penn State does. Both team's strengths are hitting the glass on both ends of the floor. Whoever gains control of the boards could be the deciding factor in this game.
For Penn State, they need to revisit their identity of playing hard, regardless of their own shortcomings on offense. Because as we've seen, they will likely struggle to score 60 in all of their games the rest of this season. It will certainly help if they could earn chances at the charity stripe, as Purdue is susceptible to fouling (35.4 free throw rate).
However, it seems pointless to focus on the details when Penn State's effort was as flat as it was on Thursday. All we can hope for is a much better showing from the players and what happens, happens.
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