Billy Oliver is not your typical Big Ten forward. He only average 3.8 rebounds per game (in about 24 minutes per game) and 80% of his field goal attempts come from beyond the three-point arc. He's pretty much the complete opposite of Trevor Mbakwe, and not just because Oliver hasn't missed any games this season.
Before Thursday night's 65-45 Nittany Lion victory over Purdue, Oliver's spot shooting game was not much of a boon to the Penn State offense. He was only in double figure scoring for two games, and against PSU's first two Big Ten opponents, Michigan and Northwestern, Oliver had a total of 5 points. If Penn State wasn't so shallow in the frontcourt from waiting for Jonathan Graham and Ross Travis to develop, Oliver would probably be relegated to a small bench role.
Instead, Oliver started versus Purdue, knocked down a couple of threes during Penn State's opening run and never really cooled off from that point forward. He finished the night with an astonishing 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting that required a lot of help from his friends.
All of Oliver's makes were assisted on, which is far from a bad thing. It just goes to show how much Oliver's teammates helped out in setting him up for a big night. Mostly it was Tim Frazier making life difficult for the Purdue defense. His quickness and floor vision allowed Frazier to find Oliver and other teammates open for easy buckets.
Junior college transfer Matt Glover is started to become a sort of Swiss army knife for Penn State. He hasn't yet scored in double figures this season, but he's got 19 rebounds and 7 assists total in his last two games. I'm sure coach Pat Chambers would like Glover to drop in a few more baskets to help out on nights when Billy Oliver doesn't turn into Larry Bird, but the rebounding is much welcome on a Penn State team that is lacking in size.
On the other side of the ball, it's hard to explain what went wrong with Purdue's offense on Thursday. Hammer and Rails tries to work it out.
In reality, it was over almost before it began. Robbie Hummel and D.J. Byrd were the only players that realized we were scheduled to play a game tonight. Hummel continued to struggle with his shot, but at least he willed us to the run to start the second half. Kelsey Barlow did attack some, but not enough. Byrd remembered that maybe, just maybe, we should attack the basket instead of trying to shoot over the zone. Everyone else was worse than awful.
One thing Penn State did do was switch back and forth between zone and man defense, and Purdue never really got comfortable playing against either. When Chambers did call for a zone, it looked like a 3-2 set up with defenders spread out across the perimeter and not allowing the Boilers many clean three-point looks. Purdue only shot 6 of 23 from beyond the arc, and a couple of those makes were long D.J. Byrd offerings that would be a waste of time for the Lions to contest.
Tim Frazier is not a physically imposing fellow, but his quickness on defense is unmatched by most men not named Aaron Craft. Lewis Jackson of Purdue, one of the few Big Ten guards without a height advantage over Frazier, never found his rhythm. Jackson could only muster 2 assists was 0 for 5 from the field.
The win for Penn State was especially shocking because of how lousy the Lions looked in their first two Big Ten games. Now with a huge win under its collective belt, it will be interesting to see if Penn State can keep up with the stiff defense versus other tourney contenders. Next up is a home game against Indiana at noon on Sunday.