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Penn State vs Purdue, Part Two: Nittany Lions Look For Their Third Home Win Against a Ranked Opponent

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Penn State faces Purdue on their rematch meeting of the season. The Boilermakers are tied with Wisconsin for first place in the Big Ten.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent Summary

Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Iowa Hawkeyes Sunday, March 5, 1:00 PM EST Carver-Hawkeye Arena BTN 70 17-13, 9-8 Big Ten TBD

Penn State is currently on a four-game winning streak against ranked teams at home, dating back to February 6th of last year, when they defeated then-No. 22 Indiana. The Purdue Boilermakers bring their number 14 ranking to Happy Valley in a rematch that saw the Lions barely compete with the Boilermakers the first time around.

For the historian in you, this meeting looks eerily similar to the one against another top-15 opponent in this current streak. Last year, the Iowa Hawkeyes toyed with Penn State for 40 minutes at Carver-Hawkeye arena, only to make the return trip to the cavernous confines of Bryce Jordan Center and find themselves in a battle against a Nittany Lions squad with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

This Purdue team looks just as invincible as Iowa did then, possibly looking past a Penn State team they made quick work of the first time around and into a much more anticipated matchup just a few days later. The difference this year though is that, for all intents and purposes, Purdue is the most complete team in the Big Ten right now. Iowa was showing cracks by the time they made their trip to State College.

Scouting the Opposition

If Penn State wants to keep the streak going, it will have to learn from what made Purdue most effective last time around and ensure the Boilermakers are unable to replicate that success. You can’t get past Purdue’s height, but the one thing the Lions did well last time out was to get Isaac Haas into foul trouble early, which by no coincidence was the period of time where Penn Sate was able to draw within six of Purdue.

The last time we wrote about Caleb Swanigan, he had a 47.2% rate from three on 36 attempts. All he’s done since then is increase his rate to 48.3 on 60 attempts, continued to be the double-double machine we hope Mike Watkins will one day become, and make it completely impossible for any and all opponents to stop him whatsoever.

The rest of the Purdue cast is doing pretty well too. They have decreased their eFG% slightly to 56.4 since then, if that’s a silver lining worth mentioning. Too bad they made that up by getting better as a team from three, at 41.1%. Purdue is playing its best basketball of the season, and they’re doing so at the right time.

What to Watch For

Penn State should not spend its energy trying to stop Swanigan. They should do just the opposite. They should make it so Swanigan has to win the game all by himself. If they can force Purdue’s very efficient outside shooters into bad shots all night, the game will fall on Haas’s and Swanigan’s hands. At that point, it’s just a matter of forcing one of the two to sit.

While the above may seem daunting, Purdue is not the only team that has improved over the past month. “The Fresh Men™” have come of age as of late, and spot guys like Julian Moore have become much more consistent as well, to the point where one can reasonably expect a certain level of performance out of them. This is something that couldn’t be said over a month ago.

The only piece that has to come together is the play of the upperclassmen. We have yet to experience “The Day Where Payton Banks And Shep Garner Played Well At The Same Time™”, and boy what a glorious day that will be when it happens. Just picture this sight: Watkins is a force inside, Stevens punishes the opponent with his jumper and ability to drive, Carr lights it up and dishes it around, Reaves is a nuisance the entire game, and both Garner and Banks are setting the nets on fire. Oh, what a wonderful day that will be! \*swoons\*

The wear and tear of the season has taken its toll, and a number of Nittany Lions have missed time in key games. And, with Nazeer Bostick out two to four weeks with a broken hand, things get dicier for the Lions down the stretch. Let’s hope one of Terrence Samuel, Isaiah Washington, or Deividas Zemgulis can give Penn State good minutes to make up for his absence. Better yet, let’s hope they all do.

Prediction

I’m not much of a superstitious man, but last year I happened to be the one who wrote the preview for the Penn State/Iowa rematch. I predicted a gloomy score. I’m doing the same thing this year.
Purdue 89, Penn State 69