Tuesday night the Purdue Boilermakers traveled to Happy Valley looking to continue its march towards a Big Ten title. The Nittany Lions were not expected to challenge Purdue after losing to them by 25 earlier in the season. However, the Boilermakers got everything they could handle in a young, hungry and scrappy Penn State team.
Penn State came out with great effort in the first half. The Nittany Lions jumped on the Boilermakers 12-4 in the game’s opening minutes. Penn State stretched its lead to 25-15 with just over five minutes to play in the half. Purdue’s Vincent Edwards kept Purdue close with nine points. Purdue somehow only trailed 33-29 at halftime despite only shooting 29% from the field and committing 10 turnovers.
The start of the second half saw the Nittany Lions slam three straight dunks to pull out to a 39-31 lead with 18:20 to go. The Boilermakers looked rattled and tentative. Purdue’s offense went back to basics with some buckets by Caleb Swanigan, Isaac Haas and three’s by Ryan Cline and Vincent Edwards. Purdue used a 16-7 run over the next eight minutes to take their first lead 48-47 with 10 minute remaining.
From there, Purdue seemed to take control. The Boilermakers hit a three-pointer with 3:22 to go to extend their lead to 62-54. That’s when Penn State’s Tony Carr took over. The freshman scored eight out of Penn State’s final 10 points to tie things up at 64. Overtime would settle it.
In overtime, Purdue’s shooting once again came up big. Trailing 68-66 with under two minutes to go, Ryan Cline hit back-to-back three-pointers and Purdue escaped with a 74-70 win.
Let’s see what we learned from this exciting game.
What We Learned
1. Penn State Showed Everyone How To Beat Purdue
The game plan from coach Pat Chambers was to use his length and athleticism to hound Purdue on the perimeter, double Caleb Swanigan and challenge Purdue’s looks at the rim. It worked, Penn State played nearly a flawless defensive game.
The Nittany Lions’ perimeter pressure forced the 17 Boilermaker turnovers, with seven of those coming from Purdue guards. The double-team challenge on Swanigan was also effective. The outstanding sophomore never established a rhythm and was frustrated all night. Swanigan finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, well below his season averages. Finally, at the rim and in the paint, Penn State dominated. The Nittany Lions recorded 10 blocks, out rebounded the Boilermakers and outscored Purdue 46-12(!) in the paint.
Offensively, Penn State used its young playmakers to challenge Purdue’s 12th-ranked KenPom defense. This nearly worked as well.
Penn State exposed Purdue’s lack of athleticism by spreading the Boilermakers out and driving hard one-on-one to the basket. It worked nicely for Lamar Stevens who scored 10 first half points on some nice drives and finishes around the basket.
The second half, and especially in winning time, Penn State put the ball in Tony Carr’s hands. The freshman delivered, scoring off high ball screens and backing down smaller Purdue players. Carr hit shot after shot in the game regulation’s final minutes. Overall, he scored 21 points and dished out 7 assists.
With all of these positives, how did Penn State lose? Shooting.
Penn State needed to complement the driving with three point shooting. It didn’t materialize. The Nittany Lions were 2-18 from three-point range. Purdue made 10 more three’s at 12-26.
Despite the loss, I am sure many coaches will take notice on how defensive perimeter pressure and spreading the floor on offense disrupts the Boilermakers and can earn their team a win.
2. Purdue’s Shooting Finally Came Through
You could say the Boilermakers were in a mini-slump from deep as of late. Purdue is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country with nine made a game at 41%. However, over the last three games (@Indiana, Rutgers, Michigan State), Purdue was averaging just six made three’s at 30%.
The slump appeared to be getting worse as Purdue started 2-9 from three in the first half and trailed 25-15 with just over five minutes left in the first half. Junior guard P.J. Thompson, who came into the game last making a three on February 4th, stepped into a shot and made one to stop the Boilermaker bleeding. Purdue finished the half 3-4 from three and kept the game from slipping away.
The Boilermakers shot 7-13 from deep the rest of the way with some absolutely monster three pointers from Dakota Mathias, Ryan Cline and P.J. Thompson. The two three’s by Cline in overtime probably won the game for the Boilermakers.
Reggie Miller used to say that shooter’s just needed to keep shooting to get out of a slump. That appears to be exactly what the Boilermakers did tonight and it earned them a road victory.
3. Tony Carr Has A Bright Future
Tony Carr came into this game playing his best basketball this season. The freshman guard from Philadelphia was working on a streak of seven straight double figure performances and a 17.6 points per game average over his last five.
The game started off slower for him tonight.
Carr went into the locker room with just seven points on 2-6 shooting. He did most of his damage from the foul line (4-4).
Chambers put the ball in his hands in the second half and he put on a show.
Carr was unguardable in the game’s final minutes, scoring eight straight points for Penn State to force overtime. It was impressive to see Chambers entrust Penn State’s comeback to the playmaking abilities of Carr. It was even more impressive that he delivered.
Even in the loss, there is a silver lining for Penn State fans. Carr played gutsy down the stretch and ended up with 21 points seven assists and five rebounds. Other young pieces such as Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins went toe-to-toe with the Boilermakers as well.
Penn State fans have been incredibly patient, but Chambers is building something in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions will need to take a next step at some point. Carr is a great candidate to take them there.
Both teams next suit up Saturday on the road. The Boilermakers travel to Michigan for an important road game on Saturday against the Wolverines. Penn State will play Minnesota from Williams Arena.