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Clemson vs. Purdue Basketball Preview

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Purdue v Tennessee Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Opponent: Purdue
When: Thursday, November 26th, 8:30pm
Venue: Titan Field House - Melbourne, FL (Space Coast Challenge)
TV: CBS Sports Network

Quick Recap Purdue vs Liberty Game

Purdue looked like a team out to prove a point in 2020 after a poor 2019 season in their opener against Liberty. An offense that looked lost in numerous games last season looked sharp last night.

The Boilermakers were led by 7’4 freshman Zach Edey, who went for 19 points on 9 of 10 shooting against the flames. Edey wasn’t supposed to be this good, this early, but he flashed nice hands and dunked everything Wednesday night

Edey’s efficient night was helped by 2 other freshmen. Jaden Ivey hit the floor shooting and didn’t stop shooting until he hit the bench, contributing 12 points in 17 minutes. Brandon Newman pitched in another 10 points on a combination of drives to the rim and outside shooting.

Purdue’s All-Big10 center, Trevion Williams struggled with foul trouble and had a tough time finishing on the interior, but put together a solid all-around game with 7 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. It wasn’t a great shooting night for Purdue’s usually efficient post scorer, but his diverse skill set makes him an asset even on off scoring nights.

Liberty put up a fight, hitting 11 3 pointers, but couldn’t compete with Purdue’s efficiency on offense. The Boilermakers shot 50% from deep, going 9-18 for the game and shot 58.5% for the game. When Purdue’s offense is clicking on that level, they are almost impossible to beat.

Purdue Starting Lineup

PG: #11 - Isaiah Thompson - So - 6’1, 160

G/F: #5 - Brandon Newman - Fr - 6’5, 195

SF: #55 - Sasha Stefanovic - Jr - 6’5, 200

PF: #1 - Aaron Wheeler - Jr - 6’9, 205

C: # 50 - Trevion Williams - Jr - 6’10, 265

Bench Contributors

SF/PF: # 0 - Mason Gillis - Fr - 6’6, 230

PG/SG: #23 - Jaden Ivey - Fr - 6’4, 200

PG/SF: #25 - Ethan Morton - Fr - 6’6, 215

C: #15 - Zach Edey - Fr - 7’4, 285

Key Injuries

G: Eric Hunter Jr - Jr

C: Emmanuel Dowouna

Offseason

The Boilermakers come into 2020/2021 trying to shake off an uncharacteristically bad 19/20 campaign. Last season, Purdue finished up 16-15 overall and 9-11 in the Big10. That’s an aberration for a normally stable and winning program.

Purdue had 2 key offseason defections with 18/19 starter Matt Haarms leaving the log jam at the center spot for BYU and two year starting point guard Nojel Eastern leaving for Howard. These two losses have been a key point of contention in the offseason, as both left under unusual circumstances that received some blowback from Coach Painter. Losing 2 talented and experienced seniors is tough, but the Boilermakers needed to reboot the roster after falling apart in 19/20 and this gives them the perfect opportunity.

Offense

Starters

Trevion Williams

The main focus of the Purdue offense will be getting the ball inside to Trevion Williams. At 6’10, 265 he’s one of the most efficient post scores in the nation. He can score with either hand down low, and has a wide array of moves when he gets time. He’s a foul magnet when he catches the ball in the post and will score through contact. If you’re going to foul him, you have to wrap up his arms because he’s incredibly strong. He uses that strength to beast opponents on the boards and usually gets at least 4-6 points a game by following his own misses after burying his defender under the backboard.

You can’t fall asleep when the ball goes into Tre, because he’s one of the best passers on the Purdue roster. He will hit a cutter going down the lane from the top of the key, and he’s adept at finding open shooters on the opposite side of the floor. He’s a tough player to double team, and I often wonder if teams wouldn’t be better playing him straight up and forcing him to score. At the same time, if he gets hot in the paint, he’s capable of putting up 30+ and fouling out your entire front line in the process. He’ll be a tough cover for Clemson.

The rest of the roster is an enigma.

Aaron Wheeler

Aaron Wheeler was supposed to have a breakout year in 2019 after a solid freshman campaign, but struggled (to say the least) shooting the ball from the outside. In theory he’s an athletic stretch 4 with deep range. Last season teams were begging him to shoot from deep by the end of the season. I anticipate Clemson giving him plenty of space until he proves he has his shot sorted out. He’s another guy you need to box out because he loves the put back dunk.

Sasha Stefonovic

Sasha is either the best shooter on the team or the worst shooter on the team, depending on the game. When he’s hot, he can carry the offense. When he’s cold he can shoot Purdue out of games over a 10 minute stretch. Last season hot Sasha showed up for home games and cold Sasha attended away games. If that pattern holds, Purdue should be ok, but it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on Sasha. He has a quick trigger and doesn’t lack confidence. One he hits one, he’s likely to hit 2 or 3 back-to-back. Also, out of all the Purdue wings last season, he was the most likely to cut to the rim and try and finish at the rim.

Brandon Newman

Newman is a redshirt freshman looking to get his first minutes of college basketball. He’s an incredible athlete and a deadly shooter coming off screens. He gets nice lift of his jumpers and can get them off over most defenders. When he’s in the game, he’s going to come off screens and look to score from the perimeter. At 6’5, he’s adept at taking dribble handoffs at the freethrow line from the center, turning the corner, and finishing at the rim with one dribble.

Jaden Ivey

Ivey is a true freshman but grew up around college basketball. His mother, Niele Ivey, was named Notre Dame’s head women’s basketball coach this off-season, she was also an All-American at Notre Dame. His father, Javin Hunter, was a star receiver for Notre Dame and went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. He won’t be intimidated by the moment.

Ivey was a top 100 player nationally, and he’s a guy Purdue fans have been salivating over since he signed. If you’ve followed Purdue basketball, a more explosive E’Twaun Moore is a good comp for Ivey. He’s a smooth operator that is equally skilled at getting to the rim and pulling up from the outside, making him a tough cover. If you crowd him, he’s going to try and go by you. If you give him space he’s going to pull up and stroke a jumper. At the same point, this will be his second college game. The talent is there, it’s only a question of how long it takes him to put it together.

Isaiah Thompson

Thompson will normally be a bench player for Purdue, but he’ll start until Hunter has recovered. Thompson doesn’t look like a player. He’s got a wire thin, 6’1 frame, and won’t strike anyone as overly athletic. His older brother (and current Purdue assistant coach) P.J. Thompson played point for Purdue a few seasons ago, and he was the same way (except P.J. was a little more bulky). He didn’t look like someone you had to worry about, right up until the point where he drained a clutch 3 over your outstretched fingers.

Isaiah is a solid ball handler and decision maker and a deadly spot up shooter. If you disrespect his jump shot, he will make you pay. Clemson can’t get lazy and lose focus, because he will find openings on the perimeter if they use his man in a double team or in a rotation.

Bench

Mason Gillis

Gillis had a great high school career, and then he blew out his knee before his senior season and we haven’t seen him in a competitive game since. He took a redshirt year to make sure he was 100% healthy, but the coaching staff raved about his practice intensity. He’s 6’6 but will most likely play power forward for Purdue. He’s got a grown man body. I anticipate his main contribution coming on hustle plays and offensive boards, but he could shoot the ball in high school and could make for an interesting stretch 4 option for the Boilermakers. Until he proves he can shoot it, he’s a player Clemson can help off of when he’s outside the paint.

Jaden Ivey

Ivey is a true freshman but grew up around college basketball. His mother, Niele Ivey, was named Notre Dame’s head women’s basketball coach this off-season, she was also an All-American at Notre Dame. His father, Javin Hunter, was a star receiver for Notre Dame and went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. He won’t be intimidated by the moment.

Ivey was a top 100 player nationally, and he’s a guy Purdue fans have been salivating over since he signed. If you’ve followed Purdue basketball, a more explosive E’Twaun Moore is a good comp for Ivey. He’s a smooth operator that is equally skilled at getting to the rim and pulling up from the outside, making him a tough cover. If you crowd him, he’s going to try and go by you. If you give him space he’s going to pull up and stroke a jumper. At the same point, this will be his second college game. The talent is there, it’s only a question of how long it takes him to put it together.

Zach Edey

Edey is a monster. I’m not sure what else to expect from the Canadian import (via IMG), but you will 100% notice when he’s on the court. He’s a legit 7’4, and isn’t skinny. He dominated Purdue’s first scrimmage, which was a surprise to everyone, because he was considered a developmental player coming into Purdue. He might be a developmental player, but he dominated Liberty. Look for him to post hard and try to draw fouls when he’s in the game. I anticipate a quick double team to force him to make a decision with the ball.

Ethan Morton

Morton was another jewel in Purdue’s 2020 recruiting class. Along with Ivey, he was expected to come in a play right away. His development and conditioning took a hit in the offseason after a nast case of mono knocked him out for over a month. He’s an elite passer from the wing and may play some “point guard” in Purdue’s positionless motion offense. He struggled against Liberty but Purdue sees him as a key cog in their future plans, expect to see him on the court in short spurts. He’s another guy Clemson can help off of until he proves he can shoot from the outside.

Defense

Purdue plays straight up man-to-man as God intended. This allows them to keep continuous ball pressure and grind on opposing ball handlers. I anticipate a quick double team from the perimeter any time Aamir touches the ball in the paint. Purdue likes to send the double team before the first dribble. Simms will have to make quick decisions in the post and balance his scoring with good passing decisions.

High ball screens are Purdue’s kryptonite, and that should be the case again this year. The Dawes/Simms 1 / 5 high ball screen should be the only play Clemson runs until Purdue proves they can stop it. When they do eventually stop it, Clemson should transition to the 2 / 5 high ball screen. If you have a guard who can turn the corner on the screen and attack the lane, Purdue struggles. The Tigers must make Williams and Edey come outside and move their feet. Williams is a foul magnet on the perimeter and Edey, while mobile for a 7’4, 285 pound big man, is still a 7’4, 285 pound big man.

Purdue wants to force the ball to the wings and then cut off the back side. Clemson has a bad habit of letting the ball stick on the wings. If the Tigers don’t move the ball from side to side or force the ball to the top of the key, Purdue will win the game. If you don’t put the Purdue defense into rotation, they will put the clamps on everything you want to do on offense. Ideally, the Tigers move the ball early in the shot clock and then default to the high pick and roll later in the clock.

Prediction

It’s tough to make a judgement after the first game, but Purdue looked significantly more cohesive than Clemson in the opening round. Granted, it’s easier to look good against Liberty than it is against Mississippi State, but Purdue looked like a team in midseason form and Clemson looked like a team that is still trying to figure out how the parts fit together.

This will be an interesting game later in the year, but I don’t think the Clemson team I watched Wednesday night has much of a chance on Thursday night.

Purdue 75 - Clemson 63