Refs Give Purdue Life In OT Win At Penn State
I’m going to type all of this out anyway, but if you didn’t see the game you aren’t going to believe any of it.
Penn State opened the game by deciding not to cover Carsen Edwards behind the arc. Carsen had 12 points before the first media timeout, and Purdue was 10 for 15 from three in the first half.
Purdue rolled to a 17-point lead, then between leaving PSU players open and making the Nittany Lions look like Duke on the offensive boards, the lead was cut to three …
before Penn State slept through one more defensive possession, letting Aaron Wheeler launch an uncontested three at the horn. Naturally, it banked in for the 10th Boiler three of the half.
Purdue led nearly the entire way, but ended up trailing late in large part because Pat Chambers noticed that refs were calling nearly everything inside; PSU drew 14 second-half fouls and shot 21 free throws. A team that averaged 28.8 FTs per 100 FGA ended up with more than double that tonight.
Penn State started defending the three; Purdue’s response was to stumble rather than drawing fouls. When their outside shooting cooled off (5 for 13), they looked very much like December Purdue, and I thought we’d all agreed not to bring them up again.
With 13 seconds to go, Lamar Stevens drove to the rim. Nojel Eastern hacked him once trying to stop the drive, then one more time for good measure. As the ball went out of bounds, the refs signaled … Purdue ball. Carsen hit a layup with :05 to go to tie the game, then Nojel blocked a Rasir Bolton 3 to end regulation.
Trevion Williams hit the first bucket in OT, Carsen followed with a four-point play, and Penn State was done. Oh, naturally Nojel Eastern hit six straight FTs to ice the win; counting his earlier two, that makes 16 in a row.
See? You barely believe any of that. The other crazy thing is that while Any Road Game is kind of true in the Big Tenteen - coming into this game, home teams won 60.9% of conference games, second-highest among P5 conferences (the Big 12 was at 65.8%) - there were very few fans at the Bryce Jordan Center because classes were canceled at Penn State today. And yet, if that Eastern foul is called, Purdue loses (unless Stevens misses at least one FT; he was 14-17 from the line, so idk about that).
Then again, if the refs aren’t calling fouls on a substantial percentage of Penn State drives, this game is never in doubt - PSU led just once in the game. Or, looking at it another way, if Purdue stopped fouling on those drives … in addition to being woeful on the perimeter, the Boilers yield an average ratio of FT/FGA, and average for DI means below-average for power conferences and significantly below average for contenders. If tonight’s game wasn’t a lesson in STOP FOULING, I don’t know what is. (Painter literally told his players at least once in the huddle to stop fouling Penn State.)
The win. Any time you blow a double-digit lead, any time you blow a lead on the road, any time you let a struggling team into the game, if you come away with a W then you can save the lecture for tomorrow’s practice, because right now all you really want to think about is where that game could have gone. Great teams win games you don’t think they can win; they also blow out weak teams. Purdue hasn’t been a great team the entire season, obviously, but in 2019 they’ve been #3 in the country (#4 after the win) according to barttorvik.com, and it’s hard to argue with results. (Joking! We can do it easily. Not tonight though, OK?)
Nojel Eastern. Sixteen straight, half of those in a game where he was a bad 0 for 3 from the floor (Penn State’s interior defense did a great job forcing him to throw up bad shots), but still grabbed 10 boards, got that OT-clinching block, and had 4 assists to 0 turnovers. It’s also entirely possible that Eastern has enough of a defensive reputation that the refs assumed he couldn’t have fouled Penn State’s best player in the lane. That sounds fine to me.
Outside shooting. Carsen was 8 for 15, Ryan Cline 6 for 7 including some key makes late in the second half, and Sasha Stefanovic hit a long three in the first half as well.
The Man. 38 points in 41 minutes (Cline also played 41; Lamar Stevens played 43 (!) for Penn State). 1 board, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls, 1 steal, 1 block … kind of a quiet night except for the 38 points. I mean, you let Carsen take a heat check and make it, you’re doing something wrong. Chambers did a solid job with his D in the second half, but in the first I got a glimpse of why PSU has struggled so much this year.
Trevion Williams. Yeah, he fouled out in 17 minutes, but he was 5-6 against some strong post defense, blocked 2 shots, had 1 assist and earned at least one more (he found a wide-wide-wide-open Eifert underneath, but the poor guy bricked the bunny). He’ll have 10 more games of experience by the time the BTT rolls around. Another matchup with Michigan would be really interesting. (Beating MSU a second time would be a lot more fun, though. I guess to win the conference tournament, they’d probably have to beat both teams.)
Penn State’s student section, who not only came to the game despite (or because of) classes being canceled, then took the floor to honor Tyler Trent. It’s a little dusty in here.
Rebounding. At one point, Penn State had rebounded half their misses; they ended up with 40% of them (18 to 27 defensive boards for Purdue). Williams had no offensive boards this time.
Persistent fouling. Purdue undid a reasonably good job of defense on Stevens (10 points on 13 shots) by giving him 17 free throws; they played a large part in helping the hosts stick around until OT.
Offensive regression. When the outside shots stopped falling, Purdue didn’t really change anything. Penn State deserves credit for taking away some things, but at some point you have to attack a defender and make him earn that defense; instead, the Boilers kept looking for Carsen or Cline to hit a three. With Williams in foul trouble, nobody other than Carsen would attack the rim, so Purdue settled for threes and had too many one- or no-shot possessions.
Late fouling. Purdue committed three fouls in OT: one by Williams, which was his fifth but also a legit foul on a drive to the rim; one by Carsen of all people on a play where Purdue was up 9 with 1:02 left; and one by Eifert when Purdue was up 10 with :47 left. STOP FOULING THEM.
I … guess we’ll take it? At some point in a streak, you’re going to catch a few breaks; make the most of them and you get one step closer to a protected seed or more. The Good Guys are well on track for that; a 15-5 conference record would put them in position for a 4 seed or better, and winning 2-3 games in Chicago could ice it. With Maryland the only real contender left on the schedule, 15-5 actually sounds kind of conservative; flip the Nebraska road game with Copeland out, the Boilers are 16-4, and if they win the BTT like they just did in the sim I ran, they could be a 2 seed. (Don’t think so? Add another MSU win and a UM win to their resume and think again. Sure, tournament wins don’t move the needle much, but the committee loves a surging team, and a team finishing 18-3 with 10 Q1 wins is going to be in the mix for a 2 seed.)
Minnesota in Mackey at noon on Sunday, the best time to play college basketball other than Friday nights I guess. The Gophers are a surprising 6-4 in conference play, beating Rutger, Iowa, Illinois, Penn State by one at home, Nebraska, and Wisconsin in Madison (?). They also got pantsed by Illinois in Champaign, so there’s that. kenpom has them as underdogs in every single game the rest of the way except when they host Indiana, which says all you need to know about those two teams. Purdue’s a 12-point favorite; I’d take that and give the points, not that you can right now because it’s too far in the future. Betting’s bad, mkay?
Feature photo courtesy of Purdue Sports. Yes I know it’s from the Michigan State game. All 16 FTs looked just like this one, trust me.