Penn State faces its toughest test of the season against No. 1 Purdue

Depending on what type of Penn State basketball fan you are, you expected an 8-8 start to the season, or it’s a huge surprise. Mike Rhoades’s first season at the helm of the Nittany Lions has been underwhelming. Penn State will be looking for its first road win of the season when they face No. 1 Purdue for the first time since last year’s Big Ten Tournament Championship game.

The defense is the most alarming with a matchup against the top-ranked Boilermakers on Saturday, and it will be put through its most challenging test. Perhaps a reason for the lackluster defensive numbers is that Penn State’s roster is almost entirely new. The starting five, other than sophomore guard Kanye Clary, is spending their first year in Happy Valley.

The Nittany Lions are the 193rd-ranked scoring defense in the country and 11th worst in the Big Ten, giving up 72.2 points per game. Rhoades came to Penn State with a defense-first mentality, but that pedigree has yet to surface. Nine PSU opponents have scored more than 75 points, including a stretch of seven games, which ended with a 1-6 record.

Penn State faces the 19th-best scoring offense tomorrow in West Lafayette, so it’s in for a long afternoon if they can’t slow down Zach Edey’s high-scoring Boilermakers.

Offensively, the Nittany Lions are middle of the pack in the Big Ten, scoring on average 76.2 ppg. Kanye Clary leads the way with 18.8 ppg, while VCU transfer Ace Baldwin Jr. averages 13.1. Perhaps North Carolina transfers DeMarco Dunn or Puff Johnson can get hot against Purdue, putting an upset on the table.

An upset of No. 1 Purdue would be a historic victory for Penn State’s basketball program. A win would mark the first time the Nittany Lions defeated the top-ranked team in the country and the first true road win of the Mike Rhoades era. Penn State is 0-14 against the country’s top team, so getting that monkey off its back would be a massive moment for a program looking for a signature win.

Although the defense has been less than ideal, the Nittany Lions, led by Baldwin Jr., know how to take the ball away from their opposition. Penn State has forced its opponents into 16.8 turnovers per game, leading the Big Ten and ranking 114th in that nation. If they can force Purdue into 17-plus turnovers, they’ll have a chance to pull off the upset.

Tipoff for tomorrow’s matchup against the Boilermakers is set for 2:15 pm from Mackey Arena and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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Story originally appeared on Nittany Lions Wire