The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 16, 2021 6:50 pm

Pregame: No. 6 Purdue (2-0) vs. Wright State (1-1)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – The tune-up portion of Purdue's schedule continues tonight when it takes on reigning Horizon League champion Wright State at Mackey Arena. This will be the Boilermakers' last opportunity to work out any remaining kinks before they travel to Uncasville, Connecticut, to take on No. 18 North Carolina on Saturday and then either No. 5 Villanova or 17th-ranked Tennessee on Sunday.

But Purdue can't look past the Raiders. Though they won't clash with a top-level opponent until this weekend, the Boilermakers face a decent challenge tonight from an experienced, high-scoring team that will put their defense in some problematic situations. The degree of difficulty tonight is not what it will be Saturday or Sunday, but it is a step up from Purdue's easy season-opening wins over Bellarmine and Indiana State.

"Wright State is a quality opponent," Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. "(Raiders coach) Scott Nagy has done a really good job there. They can come in (to Mackey Arena) and beat us. Our focus is on Wright State."

One potential problem for Purdue is Wright State's offensive style, which is different from anything the Boilermakers have seen so far this season. That's been, in part, the story of the Boilers' season so far: inferior teams have hung around in the opening minutes because Purdue has been unable to adjust to different styles early in games, much to Painter's chagrin. Getting off to a good start has been a point of emphasis this weekend and the Boilermakers will likely come out with a little bit more energy than in their first couple of games. But the problem hasn't really been energy, it's been execution on the defensive end. Tonight, that will involve stopping the Raiders off the dribble in their isolation sets, which they employ more often than any other team Purdue has played in the preseason or regular-season so far this year. If Wright State's guards beat their defenders off the dribble, the Boilermakers have to be disciplined in help defense, as well.

If the Boilers aren't able to execute against that style, the Raiders can take advantage. They averaged 87 points in their first two games – an 86-53 win over Division II Lake Erie and a 96-88 loss to Marshall – and star 6-foot-9 forward Grant Basile, an All-Horizon League performer last season, poured in 37 points against the Thundering Herd on Friday. Basile is extremely creative in the lane and needed only 21 shots to get those points. He's flanked by 6-6 guard Tanner Holden, who averaged 15.8 points on 52% shooting last season and has poured in 22 per game to go along with six rebounds this year.

The problem for Wright State is height. Basile is the Raiders' tallest player and will likely have to try defend Purdue center Zach Edey, who has six inches and 60 pounds on him. Edey could struggle to defend Basile on the perimeter somewhat, but the Boiler big man will also be able to go straight to the rim and try to get Basile into foul trouble in the early going. Basile will likely employ a similar strategy, but if Edey picks up a couple of quick fouls, Purdue can just run Trevion Williams, a preseason All-American, into the game off the bench. That's the advantage of having arguably the best center depth in the country. It's hard to see the Raiders stopping the high-flying Boilermakers on a regular basis after giving up 96 points to Marshall, but Purdue will still have to execute offensively. If it doesn't it could find itself in a game that's a lot closer than it expected.

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