WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue gets one last change to get everything fine-tuned before the Big Ten season starts when Central Michigan comes to town on Saturday for a showdown inside Mackey Arena.
The Boilermakers are 7-5 and have had a week to recover from last Saturday's 70-61 loss to Butler in the Crossroads Classic. Hopefully the week between games helped.
Central Michigan is also 7-5. Purdue is heavily favored (21 points), but the Chippewas can be dangerous. They like to play at a fast pace and are No. 3 in the country in scoring, averaging 87.9 points per game.
Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich was kind enough to join us here at Sports Illustrated Purdue to break down this game. He played Central Michigan three weeks ago, and was the only team to slow them down offensively all year.
Here are three things I'd like to see from Purdue on Saturday, with some insights from Lottich, who's been the head coach at Valpo for seven years:
1. Run their 3-point shooters off the line
Central Michigan shoots 25.3 3-pointers per game and they're shooting at a 37 percent clip from the line in games that DON'T involve Valparaiso. Lottich and his Crusaders held CMU to just 1-for-17 shooting from long range in their 77-55 win on Dec. 8.
"Central Michigan can really fill it up quickly,'' said Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich, who beat the Chippewas on the one day they DIDN'T fill it up. "They have a lot of shooters and they all have the green light. You really have to run them off the line.''
Lottich said his guys were aggressive in defending every shot and never let Central Michigan get comfortable.
"We got hands up and we made sure we contested shots,'' he said. "Our defense is the backbone staple of what we like to do here, and we really guarded them well that day.''
Purdue will have to do the same so Central's points don't come in bunches.
2. Impose your style of play
This game is a real contrast in styles because while Central Michigan is No. 3 in the country in scoring (87.9 points per game), Purdue is No. 8 in team defense, allowing only 57.0 points per game.
Something has to give, and it's on Purdue to play this game with the style they want. That means being aggressive on defense, and getting out quickly when they can for some easy baskets
"We were able score well against them because we forced a lot of misses and got out in transition,'' Lottich said. "It makes the game easier, that's for sure.''
In the games where Purdue has played lockdown defense, that's happened. In the back-to-back wins over then-No. 5 Virginia where they held them both under 45 points — something no Purdue team had done in more than 70 years — Purdue was able to play well in transition. More of the same would help.
3. Make them feel uncomforable on the road
Central Michigan has played five true road games this season, and it's lost them all, including the game at Valparaiso. So a loud Mackey Arena would help on Saturday. That's usually a given, but with the holiday break, there won't be a full house of students per usual. Other throats will have to pick up the noise level.
"We were fortunate because we had them at home and we had a good atmosphere that day,'' Lottich said. "We had a good week of practice and game prep for them, and we were very comfortable with what we wanted to accomplish against them. We took a great offensive team and made them shoot tough shots. I was really proud of the effort.''
Purdue will need a similar effort on Saturday.
Gameday preview, Purdue vs. Central Michigan
Here are the particulars:
- Who: Central Michigan Chippewas (7-5) at Purdue Boilermakers (7-5)
- When: Noon ET, Saturday, Dec. 28
- Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.
- Line: Purdue is a 21-point favorite, according to vegasinsiders.com
- Rankings: Neither team is ranked in either the AP or Coaches poll. Purdue is receiving votes in both, however, and would be ranked No. 38 in the AP poll and No. 32 in the Coaches poll.
- Kenpom.com rankings: Purdue 13, Central Michigan 191
- TV: Big Ten Network
- Announcers: Kevin Kugler, Ben Brust
- Radio: Purdue Radio Network
- Announcers: Larry Clisby, Rob Blackman, Ralph Taylor