Penn State kept its NCAA tournament hopes alive with its win over Ohio State at the Big Ten tournament on Friday night.
It was the Nittany Lions’ third Quadrant 1 win of the season — all three wins are over the Buckeyes.
“It’s a good win,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said during his postgame press conference. “They talk about Quad 1 wins. We’ve got plenty of Quad 1 wins. That’s a quality win. We hope they give us a hard look.”
The Nittany Lions will have a chance to earn a fourth Q1 win and add to their NCAA tournament resume when they face Purdue in the conference tournament semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Madison Square Garden. As the Boilermakers took on Rutgers in the final game of the night Friday, Penn State’s players answered questions in their locker room about the win over the Buckeyes and the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t know how that really works, but I would love to beat Purdue,” Penn State guard Shep Garner said when asked about getting another quality win to reach the NCAA tournament. “I want to win as many games as I can.”
The Boilermakers, who are ranked No. 8 in the AP Top 25 Poll, went on to beat Rutgers 82-75.
The No. 7-seed Nittany Lions will be looking to pull the upset against the No. 3-seed Boilermakers to reach the Big Ten championship game. And they’ll need to do it without Penn State big man Mike Watkins, who is out for the conference tournament due to a knee injury.
After the Nittany Lions beat Ohio State without Watkins, Chambers was asked by Andy Katz on Big Ten Network what his team showed Friday night.
“It shows that we deserve to be in the NCAA tournament,” Chambers told Katz.
What will the Nittany Lions need to do to beat Purdue?
When Penn State faced Purdue on Feb. 18, the Nittany Lions turned to Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce with Watkins limited to nine minutes due to foul trouble.
Moore, Pierce and freshman John Harrar battled the Boilermakers’ 7-foot centers — 7-foot-2, 290-pound senior Isaac Haas and 7-foot-3, 250-pound redshirt freshman Matt Haarms — in a 76-73 loss. They limited Haas to 12 points and six rebounds and Haarms to four points and two rebounds.
“Satchel played pretty well, right, in extended minutes,” Chambers said Feb. 19. “I thought Julian was terrific, right, he gave us great minutes. I thought Johnny gave us great minutes. We have a Big Ten team here that can go up against the small, and we can go up against big because we have the depth up front now that can really help us.”
The Nittany Lions have played different lineups since Watkins suffered his knee injury. Harrar, a 6-foot-9 forward, has started both games of the Big Ten tournament for the Nittany Lions. He was active on the glass in 11 minutes in the win over Ohio State on Friday, pulling down six rebounds, including four offensive rebounds. Pierce did not play Friday night.
Expect Moore to receive the bulk of the minutes for the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
The fifth-year big man played 28 minutes in the win over the Buckeyes, finishing with five points, five rebounds and one block. Moore was fired up for the team’s regular-season matchup with Purdue’s big men this season.
“He’s not going to back down from any challenge,” Penn State guard Josh Reaves said Feb. 19. “During practice, he was excited to go against Haas. He remembers what happened last year. He was just ready to go. He was very amped up to do it. He proved last night that he can play with people like that.”
The Nittany Lions will need a strong performance from the veteran big man to upset Purdue and boost their NCAA tournament hopes.