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Yay Hoops: Penn State Takes Shot at Big Ten Giant

Purdue is ranked No. 1 until the new polls come out, so let’s make some history

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Back in February 1993, Penn State was at home against the No. 1 ranked team in the country for a weeknight game at Rec Hall. What happened was one of the most infamous losses in program history as Bob Knight’s Indiana team escaped its winter camping trip with a double overtime win that was significantly aided by a missed call by official Sam Lickliter. What slipped away from Bruce Parkhill’s spunky bunch was a program-defining win, an opportunity to knock off the nation’s top team for the first time in Penn State basketball history.

More than 30 years later, Penn State is still looking for a first win against a team ranked No. 1 in college basketball. Well, today, paraphrasing Lloyd Christmas, we’re saying there’s a chance.

Purdue is the top team in college basketball until the next poll comes out in a couple days. The Boilermakers are 14-2 overall, but just 3-2 in conference play and they’re coming off a loss in Lincoln. Meanwhile, the Lions collapsed in the second half last week in a home loss to Northwestern and heading to Mackey Arena and facing prohibitive player of the year favorite Zach Edey isn’t exactly what Mike Rhoades would prefer.

Continue reading for more about today’s game, but also feel free to use this thread as the game’s open thread. A reminder of all those rules we typically give, which start with simply not being a jerk.

Scouting the Opposition

Purdue is Purdue. They are led by Edey who stands 7’4 and averages 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. He’s legitimately one of the most dominant big men in college basketball’s recent history. He is a gameplanning nightmare with most teams employing regular double teams and hoping Purdue shoots poorly - something they tend to do every March.

Unfortunately, this game isn’t being played in March. Instead, it’s happening with the Boilermakers deseprate for a win and playing with one of the nation’s best homecourt advantages. It’s also a place where Purdue shoots well, so watch out for sophomore guards Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith to get going from the perimeter.

What to Watch For

  • Guard Matchups

Last March, Purdue barely hung on against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament championship despite Edey dominating with 30 points and 13 rebounds. It was Penn State’s pressure defense in the closing minutes that made the difference. Purdue’s guards were then hounded a few days later against Fairleigh Dickinson in the opening game of the NCAA tourney where the Boilers were just the second No. 1 seed to ever lose to a 16 seed. Make no mistake, Penn State is severely undermanned heading into today’s game, but Ace Baldwin Jr. and Kanye Clary are exactly the kind of guards that have given Purdue fits - especially the defensively limited Loyer - the past couple years.

  • Handling the Size

While Edey is the headliner, Purdue employs other talented and experienced front court players. Trey Kaufman-Renn was non existent against Nebraska, but he’s emerged as a versatile frontcourt mate to Edey. Meanwhile, Caleb Furst can certainly spell Edey at the 5 spot, while Mason Gillis has been a Penn State killer at times in his career. Mike Rhoades’s best friend will certainly be ball pressure in the backcourt, but figuring out a strategy for his undersized team to handle the 40-minutes of body blow basketball will determine if Penn State can hang around at all.

  • A House of Horrors

Purdue has won seven straight against Penn State with some of those, including last March in Chicago, falling in the heartbreaker category. Also, Penn State is 3-24 all-time in Mackey Arena. The Lions won’t be getting any calls and simply surviving the first 10-12 minutes on Saturday would be a welcome site given what happened in East Lansing the last time Penn State was on the road in conference play.

Prediction

The best case for Penn State was for Purdue to get caught looking ahead to a road trip to arch rival Indiana. However, the Nebraska loss earlier this week means that the Boilers will be focused on getting right heading into that matchup. I don’t see Penn State putting up much resistance.

Purdue 83, Penn State 62