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Penn State vs. Purdue Preview: Nittany Lions Face Huge Test Against Big Ten's Premier Defense

After a brief homestand, Penn State hits the road and faces a unique test in the Boilermakers.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Purdue Boilermakers (14-3)
When: Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Mackey Arena
TV: Big Ten Network
KenPom Rank: 13
Vegas Line: Purdue -16
Enemy Blog: Hammer and Rails

It's the second game of Penn State's stretch from hell, as Pat Chambers and co. travel to West Lafayette to take on Matt Painter's Purdue Boilermakers. This game is going to be a major test for Penn State's offense, as Purdue currently runs out KenPom's No. 3 defense in the country. It will also be an interesting frontcourt matchup, as the Boilermakers boast quite possibly the most impressive frontcourt in the nation.

Scouting The Opposition

Let's start with that frontcourt, which is led by a pair of seven footers: 7-foot A.J. Hammons and 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas. When one big man gets in foul trouble or needs a break, the other comes in and lol look another really skilled seven footer who will block shots, crash the boards, and get opposing big men in foul trouble. Of course, Penn State's big men have a nasty habit of committing fouls, so watching them go up against Purdue's monsters will be...something.

Purdue isn't just a great defensive team because of two guys, though. The Boilermakers play some of the best team defense in all of college basketball. Guys like Caleb Swanigan, Rapheal Davis, Vince Edwards, Kendall Stephens, and Dakota Mathias are capable of locking people down. Stephens is also capable of hitting heartbreaking threes in the Bryce Jordan Center and we'd rather not talk about it ever.

Surprisingly enough, Purdue is really good at keeping teams from scoring, but it's not that great at taking the ball away from opponents. The Boilermakers are 330th nationally in turnover percentage on defense and 301st nationally in defensive steal percentage. This is also the case on the offensive side of the ball: Purdue is 179th nationally in turnover percentage and 283rd in steal percentage.

As for the whole "putting the ball in the basket" thing, Purdue's dangerous in its balance. Nine guys average at least five points per game, and its top scorer is Hammons at 13.9 points a night. Haas (10.8 points in 16.1 minutes per game) and Swanigan (10.1 points per game) are also in double digits for the Boilermakers.

What To Watch For

Purdue's two best players are big men who are outstanding at getting opposing big men in foul trouble. Penn State's bigs are notorious for committing way too many fouls. This, obviously, is going to be the most intriguing thing to watch. If Jordan Dickerson, Julian Moore, and Donovon Jack can guard Haas and Hammons straight up without having to go to the bench for extended periods of time, then maybe the frontcourt battle will be way more interesting than any of us think. Conversely, if they can't stay out of foul trouble, we may need to see things like Brandon Taylor at center, which, *gulp*.

It'll also be interesting to see if Penn State is able to knock down some shots from downtown. Purdue is 30th nationally in defensive three-point field goal percentage, and if the Nittany Lions want to win, it'll likely need guys like Taylor, Shep Garner, Davis Zemgulis, Payton Banks, and maybe even Josh Reaves to have success from behind the arc.


This is going to be one of the least-aesthetically pleasing games that you'll ever see. Between Penn State's struggles on the offensive side of the ball and Purdue's ability to smother teams inside the three-point line, the Nittany Lions are going to need to hit some threes on the Boilermakers. Unfortunately, that's something Penn State hasn't been able to do very well this year. Purdue may have some issues scoring down low – although you can argue that Penn State's ability to block shots will be tested against the giants that Purdue has down low. Hit some threes, get guys like Haas and Hammons in early foul trouble, and hope that none of the important players go to the bench with fouls and Penn State has a shot. Basically, Pat Chambers' squad needs everything to go right. I would bet money that doesn't happen on the road in one of the toughest places to play in the Big Ten. Purdue 74, Penn State 58.