Wow. Penn State has now won six straight basketball games after it beat Minnesota on Saturday while I was in Canada celebrating my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday party. I was able to watch a decent chunk of XFL action because they get the big American TV networks up there, but they don’t get Big Ten Network, so I followed Penn State via text messages. It sounds like we got out to a big lead early on and almost blew it in the second half due to a scoring binge from Minnesota’s Marcus Carr.
That was me right after I found out that Myreon Jones would miss the game due to illness. Also working against the Nittany Lions was their lack of a solution to Daniel Oturu, who was responsible for half of Minnesota’s field goal attempts while scoring 32 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks. That should have spelled doom for Penn State, but Lamar Stevens carried the team with a season-high 33 points on 9-for-17 shooting. He’s peaking at the perfect time, as the offense really needed that kick in the rear with Jones out. In the two games since I said Stevens wasn’t scoring enough, he’s combined for 57 points. Good job by me.
Anyway, Penn State will face an even tougher test tonight as it heads to Purdue. The Boilermakers are 7-6 in conference, but they are ranked one spot ahead of PSU in KenPom due in part to their outstanding three-point defense and offensive rebounding. Plus, they’re hitting their stride with three straight victories. Purdue doesn’t have a reliable scorer like Penn State’s Stevens, but it has gotten balanced efforts in its last two wins over Iowa and Indiana.
I really like Trevion Williams because of his size and scoring ability in the post, but he has not performed consistently this season. Still, he’s someone to look out for since he can cause foul trouble if the Boilers feed him the ball down low. Other guys to look for are Sasha Stefanovic, a terrific three-point shooter who will be curling around screens all night, and Nojel Eastern, a great defender who will be Purdue’s best chance at slowing down Stevens.
I’m expecting a loss because the Boilers have been savages on their home court. They did fall to Illinois at Mackey Arena on January 21, but their last three wins there have all been by more than 18 points. Those opponents weren’t cupcakes, either. Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa all got spanked when they went to visit Purdue.
Penn State might have shot up to No. 13 in the rankings this week, but I still feel like this is an underdog team playing with house money. In fact, the Lions are getting 4.5 points tonight, so hopefully they use that as motivation even though it is completely justified and not insulting at all. And yes, I fully expect PSU fans who are just learning what basketball is to treat the spread as DISRESPECT. That’s the type of obnoxious behavior I have to learn to deal with as a fan of a great basketball team. Let’s make it seven in a row, tonight.