Penn State at Purdue Preview
There is no such thing as an off day in Big Ten basketball when conference play rolls around. Six teams from the Big Ten are in the top 25 and Purdue played their first three conference games against (11) Illinois, (18) Michigan State and (15) Ohio State. Penn State has opened up conference play on a downward slide that shows no sign of stopping.
After playing Wisconsin tough at the Kohl Center, Penn State has come home to two double-digit losses against (5) Indiana and Northwestern.
Penn State may have the better overall record than Purdue, but for a team that has made the NCAA tournament, the last six years in a row, coach Matt Painter knows the tough road schedule will pay dividends for a team that features nine underclassmen and only two seniors.
As both teams look to pick up the pace early in conference play, Purdue will try to use the newly renovated Mackey Arena to their advantage. 8 of the last 10 contests between the two have gone the way of Purdue and the last 6 in West Lafayette.
Purdue will send out a starting lineup that is still building chemistry, but it’s clear that talent is not one of the issues for coach Matt Painter. Junior Jacob Lawson, junior Terone Johnson, who is averaging 18 points per game in Big Ten play including a career high 25 against Illinois, and senior D.J. Byrd, the three point catalyst for the Boilermakers shooting 40% from beyond the arc to start conference play.
The other two starters are freshmen center A.J. Hammons and guard Ronnie Johnson. Hammons is already the Big Ten shot block leader at just over a block per game and has scored in double figures in six of Purdue’s last eight games. Ronnie Johnson has overtaken the point guard role after starting the last 6 games and averaging a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Penn State’s shooting woes have steadily declined since shooting 50% against Army, their best shooting percentage in a game this season. Being tied for 304th in the country with Missouri State and UC Riverside in field goal percentage at just under 40% and tied for 321st in the country in 3 point shooting with Gardner-Webb shooting just under 29% could be a problem for a team that is still lacking an inside presence.
D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall’s presence on offense has been completely under the radar for a slumping offense. The two of them have been the leading scorers for the Nittany Lions in 11 of the last 12 games while still trying to pick up the slack for injured Tim Frazier
Penn State’s shooting horrors, however, are much of a similar story to Purdue. The Boilermakers shoot just over 28% from three point range and will look to set the tone in the paint Sunday. The presence of Lawson, Hammons, as well as junior Travis Carroll and freshman Donnie Hale have helped accumulate over 14 offensive rebounds per game and averaging more than 4.9 second chance points than their opponents this season. Against Ohio State last time out, Purdue contributed 44 of their 64 points from the paint and have either led or tied opponents in 13 of their 15 games this season in that remark.
Both teams show clear signs of struggling on the offensive end so far this season which means this will be a typical Big Ten game in the 50s and 60s. The tale of the tape is simple and explanatory, one team trying to salvage a season and make a run to a possible tournament bid, the other trying to get over the hump and get its first conference win.
While guard play may be an advantage with Penn State in Sunday’s matchup, the big men for Purdue have a much bigger advantage.
After a reality check was handed to Penn State last time out by Northwestern, maybe this will be the game the Nittany Lions wake up and realize winning is the only thing that can help correct the morale for Coach Chambers’ squad because not before long, all the opportunities for this season will be gone and it could be a very long off season.
Ryan Stevens is a freshman majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Ryan is a senior from Bloomington, Illinois majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in english. He has been involved with numerous radio shows, play-by-plays, beat writes and producing various Penn State athletics events since his first days of being on campus in the fall of 2012 with ComRadio. Since the fall of 2013, Ryan has been involved with State College’s ESPN Radio 1450 as an assistant producer intern and high school football reporter.
During the summer of 2014, Ryan co-hosted Sports Central with Cory Giger streaming over Altoona, Pa. and State College Pa. markets. Ryan also assisted USA Basketball media coverage in New York for World Cup of Basketball exhibition games.
Ryan was the marketing & communications intern for USA Track & Field at the national office in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the media contact for the 2015 USATF Hershey Youth Outdoor Championships as well as the 2015 National Junior Olympics.