They say that winning covers a multitude of sins, and that certainly has been the case for the Purdue Boilermakers over the past few weeks. Since the game in Iowa City on January 20th, things have definitely not looked the same for the Purdue Boilermakers in terms of the play of the team. Until Wednesday night, the result had been wins, which is enough to keep the train moving forward.
However, now that the 19 game winning streak and 12-0 start in the conference are behind the Boilermakers and they now sit with Ohio State at 12-1 in the Big Ten, they definitely have plenty of work to do in order to round back into form closing out the season into the NCAA Tournament.
Let’s take a look at three of the biggest things Purdue needs to correct heading into the Saturday Showdown.
1. The outside shooting has fallen off of late
Purdue is currently the second best three point shooting team in the country at 42.7% as a team. However, since the Indiana game, the three point shooting has been somewhat of a shell of itself. Since that Indiana game where Purdue shot just 5-18 from beyond the arc, they’ve been a combined 27-81, a 33.3% mark.
Of course, there is a handful of reasons for this. The biggest one is that teams have started to realize that as dominant as Isaac Haas can be in the paint, you’re far less likely to get run out of the gym by a Purdue team that is scoring points two at a time, as opposed to one that’s making threes in bunches.
Teams are willing to let Isaac Haas go one-on-one in the post and take away some of the wide open three point shots that led to so many of Purdue’s blowout wins earlier in the year. Having said that, Purdue has also just been missing shots you would typically see them knock down. Against Ohio State, P.J. Thompson had three looks that were totally uncontested, and finished 0-5 from three.
A lack of outside shot making against Michigan State on Saturday could spell trouble for the Boilermakers, as the Spartans boast the best two point defensive percentage in the country, only allowing a made two point field goal on 37.9% of the opponents attempts.
2. Rebounding has continued to be an issue
This is a tough one to come up with any type of simple solution for other than desire. It was the biggest fear that Purdue coaches had coming into the season, and it’s reared its ugly head in all three of the Boilermakers losses this season.
On the season, Purdue ranks 192nd in offensive rebounding rate at 28.5%, while giving up an offensive rebounding rate of 28.2%, placing the Boilermakers at 143rd in the nation. While taking care of the glass is always a key factor, it will be even more so if Purdue wants to have a realistic shot in East Lansing.
Michigan State is seemingly always a good offensive rebounding team, and their 36.8% offensive rebounding rate places them at 6th in the country. Purdue will have to start to do a much better job on the glass if they want to push their run into deep March, and they won’t have a better barometer for the rest of the year than Saturday afternoon.
3. The defensive intensity needs to be high
The energy defensively was certainly there against Ohio State on Wednesday night in front of a live, energetic crowd at Mackey Arena. While it did not result in the win, it was certainly an improvement over the effort on that side of the ball that fans saw in the Rutgers game and in spurts during the Maryland game.
Purdue can be a phenomenal defensive team, when their attitude is right.
In the end, these three points can all go hand in hand. If Purdue can manage to get on the glass offensively and defensively and get out in transition off their defense, they’ll find themselves in position to start knocking down the outside shots.
For all of the talent that Michigan State has, they do have an issue with turning the basketball over. Michigan State ranks 251st in the nation in turnover percentage at 19.9%. While Purdue doesn’t have a high defensive turnover rate at 18.8% (good for 175th in the country), this should be an opportunity for them to try and force some bad decisions by the Spartans and look to get out and run. Facing a set Michigan State defense could be bad news for the Boilers, so high defensive intensity could save them from some of those situations.