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Jan 12, 2024 11:33 am

Coming off loss, No. 1 Purdue seeks improvement vs. Penn State

Top-ranked Purdue will be looking to avoid back-to-back losses when it hosts Penn State in a Big Ten matchup on Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind.

The Boilermakers (14-2, 3-2 Big Ten) are coming off an 88-72 upset loss at Nebraska on Tuesday. Purdue, which trailed by 11 at halftime, pulled within a point in the second half before Nebraska responded with a 14-2 run. The loss ended Purdue’s seven-game winning streak.

“We had a couple good fights there in the second half where we closed it to single digits … and then they pushed it right back to double digits — 10, 11, 12,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “That was big.

“We had to do a better job defensively. To their credit, they made some tough ones. Obviously their defense was better than our offense, and vice versa.”

Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4-inch center, leads Purdue in scoring (21.8) and rebounding (10.4). He is attempting to become the second male player to win the Wooden Award as the national player of the year in back-to-back seasons, joining Virginia’s Ralph Sampson (1982 and 1983).

“There was a lot of things that could be better,” Edey said following the Nebraska loss. “Just that first half. We need to be better throughout the game. I thought our bench gave us a lot of really positive things. Starters need to be better to start the game.

“We know who we are. We just need to tighten everything up.”

Purdue, which is 8-0 at home this season, has three other players averaging at least 11.0 points per game: Braden Smith (12.8), Lance Jones (11.1) and Fletcher Loyer (11.0).

Purdue’s other loss was a 92-88 overtime setback at Northwestern, a team that went on the road and beat Penn State (8-8, 2-3) 76-72 on Wednesday. The Nittany Lions led by eight at halftime and by 10 early in the second half, but a 21-4 spurt put Northwestern in front 62-55 with 9:18 remaining.

“Tale of two halves,” Penn State coach Mike Rhoades said. “Just disappointed in the second half. I thought we shot ourselves in the foot at times in the second half. … I thought we stood around on offense in the second half too much.”

Penn State shot 3 of 17 from behind the 3-point line in the loss.

“We had some wide-open 3s you gotta make in college basketball, but we’re not making them,” Rhoades said.

Guards Kanye Clary (18.8) and Ace Baldwin (13.1) are Penn State’s leading scorers. Clary scored 25 points against Northwestern, the ninth time he’s scored at least 20 points in a game this season.

Baldwin came up with eight steals, and Qudus Wahab collected 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“There’s a lot of times we’re playing the right way and there’s some great things happening, but not consistent and long enough,” Rhoades said. “We gotta continue to prolong those — the good flow, good play.”

Penn State, which has lost eight of its past 12 games, is 0-2 on the road this season.

–Field Level Media

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