Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:00 am
Undefeated Crusaders face big test at Mackey
Ben Vessa | For The Journal Gazette
Purdue vs. Valparaiso
When: 6:30 p.m. today
Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM
WEST LAFAYETTE – Valparaiso will bring its 8-0 record into Mackey Arena tonight for a matchup against No. 21 Purdue (8-2, 2-0 Big Ten), which is riding a four game winning streak of its own, having defeated Arizona, Louisville, Maryland and Northwestern.
“I think the last four teams that we've been fortunate to beat are all NCAA Tournament teams,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. A victory tonight would be No. 299 of Painter's career. Here are some things to watch for:
Double team Haas?
Northwestern coach Chris Collins said “you have to pick your poison” when facing Purdue. Collins elected to play Isaac Haas one-on-one the entire game, choosing to tightly guard 3-point shooters instead. When he realized Collins' strategy, Haas said, “I'm thinking it's time to eat.” Haas feasted on the Wildcats for 26 points.
Fairfield decided to double Haas in the post, and the Purdue jump-shooters hit 19 three-pointers.
“That preparation for people is very difficult,” Painter said, “If they want to double (Haas) or they don't double, and then what do they want to give up – if they want to let us shoot 3s, or they just want to play him one-on-one, he's normally going to foul someone out.”
Valparaiso is tied for ninth in the country in scoring defense, giving up only 60 points per game, and has been one of the nation's best teams in opponent's 3-point percentage.
Against Maryland, the Purdue bench went scoreless. Two days later, they scored 18, including 13 from Ryan Cline.
“Anytime you come off the bench, and you don't play consistent minutes, it's hard to get into a rhythm,” Painter said.
Bench scoring has been sporadic this season, partly because Dakota Matthias and Vincent Edwards hardly leave the floor. But Cline, Matt Haarms, Grady Eifert and Nojel Eastern have seemed more comfortable driving the ball to the basket at Mackey Arena than on the road.
When the bench players are inserted into the game, look for how quickly they assert themselves on the offensive end. The Boilers might need them since Valpo is averaging 83 points per game.
Collins called Purdue the most physical team in the Big Ten. Painter hesitates to agree.
“If he really believes that, then I'll take that as a compliment,” Painter said. “I don't think we play physical when shots go up enough.”
Purdue has struggled keeping teams off the offensive glass, and Valpo outrebounds its opponents by 10 per game. Purdue also prides itself in wearing down its opponents, making them less effective late in the game, but Northwestern seemed to get stronger down the stretch.
“I don't think they wore down; they were making plays at the end,” Painter said. “They might have scored seven, eight, nine times in a row; we were having a difficult time stopping them.”