Penn State vs Purdue Preview: Lions Look to Continue Turnaround

Chris Chambers

Coming off the big road win vs OSU, Chambers' club looks to exact revenge against the Boilers.

Who: Purdue Boilermakers (13-8, 3-5)
When: Sunday, 11:30am
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: Big Ten Network
KenPom Rank: 98
Vegas Line: TBD, KenPom picks PSU -5
Enemy Blog: Hammer and Rails

It's crazy how one break here or there can directly change the course of a season. After finding defeat every which possible way, the Lions snapped out of their funk with an ugly win versus Nebraska, but then followed up with a monstrous, against-all-odds performance on the road in Columbus for a quality road win not seen since the infamous 38-33 contest in Illinois back in 2009.

Sure the Buckeyes are slumping at the moment in a big way, clearly not the team that was once ranked #3 in the country. After a 15-0 start, they've lost five of six, but they were still Ohio State, they still owned an 18-game winning streak against PSU, and they were still up 11 late in the second half. But Penn State didn't flinch for one second. The performance was so uncharacteristic of the past that we're suddenly left considering can this team salvage anything out of what had become a nightmare season.

Their next game against Purdue is Penn State's best chance for a win out of their last 10 games, according to KenPom. The Lions gift-wrapped an undeserved victory to Matt Painter's team in West Lafayette just a few short weeks ago and will look to finish the job for their third straight win Sunday.

Scouting The Opposition

Purdue has been thoroughly average in 2014, sporting a 13-8 record. They own a pair of road wins against Illinois and West Virginia, but there's not one top-50 win on their resumé along with some pretty bad losses, much like Penn State. In fact there's not much difference between the teams as the Nits are ranked 9 spots ahead in KenPom's rankings, despite the uglier 11-10 record.

The last time these teams met, it was pure agony as the Lions choked away a 3-point lead with just 20 seconds left on their way to a sixth straight loss. They gave up a game-tying three (infuriating the #FoulUp3 crowd), threw away the ensuing inbounds and committed a foul against AJ Hammons with less than 2 seconds on the clock. He was able to convert one free throw and that was that.

But even outside of the miscues down the stretch, Penn State didn't play all that great either. They gave up a huge advantage to Purdue on the boards (17 offensive rebounds), failing to finish possessions on defense that allowed Purdue to hang around despite their atrocious shooting (31.4% on 2's) and sloppy play (16 turnovers). Fouling also was an issue as Donovon Jack and Ross Travis fouled out, and Purdue earned 30 trips to the charity stripe. If Penn State wants to win the rematch, they will have to address these issues.

Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill both logged double-doubles against Purdue, but DJ needed 19 shots to get his seventeen points. No one else was in double digits for the Lions, who didn't shoot so hot themselves (26.7% from 3). Penn State will need contributions like they got in Columbus from their supporting youngsters like Graham Woodward, Geno Thorpe, Jordan Dickerson, Brandon Taylor, and Donovon Jack. They will also look for their perimeter shooting to improve at home, although they've converted less than 30% of their 3's at the BJC in Big Ten play.

Key Matchup

As mentioned above, clearly the battle on the glass will be a point of emphasis for Chambers this week in practice. Purdue doesn't possess an imposing offense, but their biggest strength is their rebounding, which has been a huge thorn in Penn State's side in the Big Ten. The Lions have enough problems defensively to not finish off their good possessions with a stop. Compete on the glass and limit the silly fouls, and Penn State should find themselves in good shape in this rematch.

Prediction

There's no sample to know how Penn State can respond after an emotional road win like Wednesday's, because those wins have been so few and far between. Every program has letdown performances and this game certainly has the potential for one from PSU, but this team is loving their newfound confidence. Belief in one's self can be a powerful emotion, and this team appears to be finding themselves down the stretch of games.

I think the hot streak continues with a 72-65 Penn State win despite the early Super Bowl Sunday start. It's the annual THON game, as a portion of student ticket proceeds will be donated to THON, so the 11:30am tip shouldn't deter too many students.

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