Top-ranked Purdue takes on Penn State on Sunday night at The Palestra in Philadelphia as it plays its third game in less than a week.
The Boilermakers (14-1, 3-1 Big Ten) overcame some early struggles to outlast Ohio State for a 71-69 road win over the 24th-ranked Buckeyes on Thursday.
Penn State (11-4, 2-2) enters a tough nine-day stretch where it will face three ranked conference foes, hosting Indiana and traveling to Wisconsin after Sunday’s game.
The Nittany Lions had a five-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday by a 79-69 loss at Michigan.
Fletcher Loyer’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 10.5 seconds left kept Purdue from back-to-back losses after suffering its first setback of the season earlier in the week at home against Rutgers.
“A lot of people look at things in theory and say your best player has to take the last shot,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Your best player has to make the best decision.”
Loyer went 0-for-6 shooting in the first half and turned the ball over four times before Painter benched him. He returned in the second half and went 4-for-6, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Loyer also made a go-ahead shot against Rutgers in the closing seconds before the Scarlet Knights responded with their own go-ahead three.
“(Loyer) is very confident in himself,” Painter said after the game. “Guys like that want the ball in their hands.”
The Nittany Lions’ average of 75.5 points per game is only slightly below Purdue’s 75.9 this season. It’s on the defensive side and on the boards where the Boilermakers often have an advantage thanks to Zach Edey, one of the nation’s top scorers (21.3 points per game) and rebounders (13.2 per game).
Purdue’s defense will be tested by a Penn State group led by Jalen Pickett (17.4 points per game), Seth Lundy (13.7) and Andrew Funk (12.1).
Pickett scored a game-high 26 points while adding nine rebounds and four assists against Michigan in a game decided by who had the final decisive scoring run.
After the Wolverines put together a 15-0 surge to take a 62-47 lead with 11:20 left in response to an 11-0 Penn State run, the Nittany Lions answered with another 11-0 stretch and pulled within three with 4:28 to go.
Funk’s 3-point try with 1:03 left rimmed out and Michigan closed out the game on an 11-4 run.
Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry spoke highly about Funk and Camren Wynter — both transfers — and how they’ve complemented their lineup this season.
“They’re both so different in their games, but they both fit seamlessly as people,” Shrewsberry said.
“I think that’s where they’re kind of both similar in that stature is they both came in, neither one asked about shots, minutes, anything else. They just cared about winning, and that was the most important thing for me.”
Shrewsberry said that he is looking forward to the Purdue game and matching up against Painter — one of his mentors.
“I haven’t spoken with him, and we’ve both been playing so it gets hard to, and then we play twice, so it’ll be interesting,” Shrewsberry said earlier this week.
–Field Level Media