Purdue Gets First Chance For Marquee Win Against Oklahoma StatePosted by Jonathan Batuello on November 28th, 2013
It hasn’t been an ideal start for Purdue, but none of that will matter against No. 5 Oklahoma State this Thanksgiving day. The Boilermakers haven’t been dominant yet this season, but they have overcome some early rebounding troubles to remain undefeated through five games. As turkeys are going into the ovens a bit later today, Matt Painter‘s team will take the floor in its first chance at a resume-building win in the first game of the Old Spice Classic. For a team hopeful to return the NCAA Tournament, a win over Oklahoma State would be a statement win by itself, and guarantee two other games against quality competition (Butler, Memphis, LSU and St. Joseph’s highlight the other top teams in the event). Travis Ford’s team has been very impressive early, averaging more than 100 PPG as the Cowboys have demolished every team it has faced, including Memphis by 21 in Stillwater. For the whole tournament, fellow RTC writer Max Jakubowski projects a seventh place finish for Purdue in the event. Second-to-last wouldn’t exactly be a strong performance for Purdue, but let’s look at some keys for Purdue to have any shot at pulling the stunning upset at Noon ET today.
- AJ Hammons and Jay Simpson Dominate Inside. It’d be easy to start with Marcus Smart, but realistically, Purdue isn’t going to stop him. So let’s focus first on Purdue’s biggest advantage with its height and big men inside. The Cowboys don’t have a particularly large front line and it’s top players are guards, which means that the Boilermakers need to go inside early and often in this game. If Hammons and Simpson don’t have big games, it could get out of hand very quickly.
- Limit Oklahoma State’s Fast Break. Travis Ford has turned the reins of this offense over to Smart. He trusts him to make smart choices and go out in the “push-the-pace” offense, as he called it. Obviously, it’s worked so far with the Cowboys not yet scoring fewer than 93 points this season. Purdue has to try to limit these chances by slowing the game down, and most importantly, making some baskets. If Purdue can have its guards get back off of makes, then the Cowboys’ lethal pace won’t have nearly as many opportunities to run up the score with quick and easy baskets.
- Handle the Cowboys’ Ball Pressure. Oklahoma State averages more steals a game than turnovers. It’s an impressive statistic that shows the ball pressure the Cowboys can apply, especially from the guard positions. They use their athleticism and speed to create steals by getting into the passing lanes and taking off. Purdue can’t let this happen today or they’ll never be in the game.
- Hold Smart and Guards to Season Averages. Smart is a National Player of the Year candidate for a reason, and his 21 PPG, 3.6 APG and 4.2 SPG show exactly why. It’s an impressive stat line, especially when coupled with guard Markel Brown’s 18.2 PPG and 4.4 APG. Purdue’s Terone Johnson, Ronnie Johnson and Bryson Scott off the bench just need to play well enough to keep Smart and Brown at their averages, hoping that Purdue’s inside presence dominates the other Oklahoma State players to make up the difference between. The Boilermakers won’t stop them — the Purdue guards aren’t good enough for that — but if they can keep Smart from going off for 30-plus points, it will allow them to at least stay in the game.