Now they face a Purdue team that has been the gatekeeper of the Nittany Lions’ progress in this tournament, as the Boilermakers have prevented deep runs both of the times Penn State has won more than one tournament game. In 2015, Penn State beat Nebraska and Iowa to reach the quarterfinals, only to fall to Purdue. In 2018, the Lions made the semifinals, where Purdue was waiting patiently, ready to bounce the Lions once more.
And now, in 2022, Penn State has yet again made its way into the quarterfinals after getting past Minnesota and Ohio State, and Purdue awaits a Lions team that could start feeling the effects of fatigue, playing a third game in as many days.
Scouting the Opposition
You know Purdue. They have Zach Edey, and Trevion Williams, and Jaden Ivey, and Sasha Stefanovic, and Eric Hunter, and Mason Gillis, and Caleb Furst, and at times they also bring in Ethan Morton, and Isaiah Thompson. So you get the point. Purdue will keep coming at you, and with four of those aforementioned players shooting over 40 percent from three, and none shooting below 35 percent, it’s going to be nearly impossible to stop the offensive onslaught coming from the Boilers and their top-ranked offensive efficiency rating.
That said, for as good as Purdue’s offense has been throughout the season, their defense has fallen off a cliff, sitting at 100th in the country in Kenpom efficiency ratings. The cracks on defense have come back to bite the Boilers, in fact, and there’s no better point of evidence to this than the lack of regular season title for a team that was overwhelmingly favored to win the Big Ten. Whether it was Johnny Davis going for over 30 points in the first matchup, or Michigan State finding ways to make baskets, or Illinois, even in losing efforts, getting whatever they wanted on offense, Purdue is capable of letting their defensive lapses squander their offensive brilliance.
What To Watch For
The formula is simple. Slow Purdue’s offense, get their big men into foul trouble, and make enough threes to keep up with the Boilers. Penn State is quite capable of doing all of these, but they will need to do them all in the same game if they intend to win this contest.
The Nittany Lions made six shots from beyond the arc against Ohio State, and for that game, that is all they needed. They’re going to likely need at least 10 to feel comfortable, as Purdue themselves will likely make as many.
Edey and Williams are a nightmare to go against, so this would be the perfect time for Greg Lee and Jalanni White to leave everything on the floor. If those two can spell John Harrar, and if Lee can see some outside shots go in, the Lions will have an easier time handling the duo. While Edey doesn’t usually step outside, Williams most definitely does, and he can punish you from the outside if you let him. This makes the need for Lee to have a big game alongside Harrar even more paramount.
All of us would love nothing more than to see Penn State playing again on Saturday. And who knows, maybe there times is indeed the charm! That said, I can’t bring myself to predict it. Purdue 78, Penn State 70.