Purdue’s next opponent, Jacksonville State University, is recovering from a blowout loss to Virginia Commonwealth University.
The Gamecocks are sitting at 1-2 overall this season, with losses to VCU and Southern Methodist University. Both losses were away games, which does not bode well for Jacksonville State as it plays at Mackey Arena on Saturday.
The Boilermakers (2-2) are looking to build off of a big win against Chicago State, where at one point in the game, the Black and Gold scored 52 points off of the bench. With so much help coming from the pine, Purdue has many players to watch this week.
Sophomore forward Aaron Wheeler embodies an athletic and diverse player. Wheeler is able to score on offense and make big stops on the defensive side. He scored 10 points against Chicago State and added 10 rebounds to go along with that. Wheeler’s presence adds pressure to opposing defenses, making their only goal to stop him from scoring and rebounding on both sides of the ball.
Junior center Matt Haarms also gives Purdue a two-way advantage. Haarms is able to hit close, inside shots with a mean spin move that is nearly impossible to defend. On defense, he opened the season with seven blocks in the Boilers’ first game against Green Bay. Standing at 7 feet, 3 inches tall, Haarms’ height is almost unmatched and provides an inside weapon which can prove to be valuable.
Fellow junior guard Nojel Eastern, who has been known for his defense, has been off to a slow start on offense this season. He has put up less than 6 points in every game so far, which has proven not to be enough from a starter. Eastern was seen working on his jumper in the off season, and showed promise. He has yet to really showcase the growth in his jumper, but it’s coming. If Eastern can catch fire on offense, that could mean bad news for Jacksonville State on Saturday.
Finally, senior guard Jahaad Proctor will be a fun player to watch. Proctor has yet to score less than 12 points in a game this season, and put up 26 points against Green Bay. The addition of Proctor this season has been a huge asset to Purdue after losing their leading scorer, Carsen Edwards, to the National Basketball Association. Proctor’s offensive abilities have set Purdue up offensively and helped put the Boilers in a position to win games.
Jacksonville State also has players that could threaten Purdue during the matchup.
Sophomore guard De’Torrion Ware has been the Gamecocks’ leading scorer so far this season, averaging 12 points per game. At 6 feet, 4 inches, Ware is a larger guard who has strong driving abilities. He is able to shoot from outside the arc, but Purdue’s inside defense will have to be ready to defend the driving layup or dish pass.
Purdue’s guards will have to keep an eye on junior guard Derek St. Hilaire, who already has five steals this season. He has quick hands on defense and a lot of speed, meaning he has the potential to give Purdue headaches on offense.
With both teams in need of a win to help get their respective seasons back on track, Saturday could prove to be a battle in West Lafayette.
The game tips off at 8 p.m. Saturday in Mackey Arena.