Purdue takes on No. 16 Michigan in Mackey Arena Wednesday evening. Here are five pressing questions as the Boilermakers try to upset the top team in the Big Ten and stop a two-game skid.
Who will play?
After suffering its worst loss of the season against Nebraska on Sunday, Purdue got even worse news when senior Sterling Carter was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL. Carter had started the previous six games and consistently received praise from head coach Matt Painter for his production.
Senior Terone Johnson started the game on the bench against Nebraska, his first time not starting in the last 57 games, in favor of freshman Kendall Stephens. The freshman did little to secure a starting spot in future games, however, scoring five points in 16 minutes of play. With an NCAA tournament bid out of reach and losses in seven of Purdue’s last nine games, no one is guaranteed substantial playing time.
Can Purdue slow the Wolverine attack?
The last time a ranked team from Michigan came into Mackey Arena, Michigan State lit up Purdue’s defense with 94 points, including 17 3-pointers and 26 assists. The Wolverines come into the game No. 3 in the Big Ten in scoring and No. 1 in field goal, 3-point and free throw percentage as well as No. 3 in assists and No. 2 in assist-to-turnover margin.
In Purdue’s 75-66 loss to Michigan Jan. 30, the Wolverines shot 60.9 percent from the field. The Boilers won’t have a shot at an upset if Michigan shoots over 50 percent Wednesday evening.
Is there any offensive punch left in the Boilermakers?
While Michigan may have the most efficient offense in the Big Ten, Purdue may have the least efficient. Offensive production has been a consistent weakness for the Boilers all season and it peaked with a woeful 57-point performance against Nebraska, in which freshman Bryson Scott was the only Boilermaker in double-digits with 13 points. Purdue is No. 258 in the nation in field goal percentage and has scored over 70 points in Big Ten play just three times.
Will Hammons exploit a small Michigan lineup?
The Wolverines’ loss of sophomore big man Mitch McGary early in the season has forced them to play small-ball lineups during Big Ten play. Michigan’s tallest starter against Michigan State was the 6-8 Jordan Morgan. Purdue center A.J. Hammons had 16 points and eight rebounds in the January loss to Michigan and seems to be Purdue’s only advantage on either side of the ball. If Hammons can avoid foul trouble, he could be in for a productive night.
Can Purdue muster some pride?
Sophomore Rapheal Davis was blunt after the Nebraska loss Sunday, calling out his team for not even looking like they care on the floor. With an inexperienced roster, the NCAA tournament window shut and injuries to key players, the Boilers could fold on the season. Purdue will have to find a way to create some passion in its play or another blowout is likely.
Prediction: The Boilers faced a similar situation last season when it hosted No. 7 Michigan late in the year, pushing the eventual national runner-up for 40 minutes in an 80-75 loss. However, this Purdue squad has shown little fight against ranked teams throughout the season and Michigan is playing for an outright Big Ten championship. Expect the Wolverine offense to cruise in an easy win. Michigan 78, Purdue 63