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November 27, 2013
Breakdown: Oklahoma State
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Purdue faces its first significant test of the 2013-14 season at noon Thursday when it faces fifth-ranked Oklahoma State in Orlando as part of the Old Spice Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, the Boilermakers' first game of the season outside West Lafayette.
About Purdue:: Roster | Schedule/Results | Stats
Projected starters: C - A.J. Hammons; F - Errick Peck; G - Ronnie Johnson; G - Terone Johnson; G - Kendall Stephens
About Oklahoma State:: Roster | Schedule/Results | Stats
Broadcast info:: Radio: Purdue Sports Network | TV: ESPN2 | LIVE: Join GoldandBlack.com tonight for our 30-minute pre-game 'Game Day Live' chat session, then our Twitter account, @GoldandBlackcom, for in-game updates.
The Oklahoma State game will pit the Boilermakers against one of college basketball's truly elite players in Cowboy sophomore guard Marcus Smart, who by-passed the chance to be one of the top players chosen in last summer's NBA draft and is now positioned squarely in the thick of the race to be national player-of-the-year and the top player chosen in the stacked 2014 draft.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Texan is averaging 21 points per game and is just two games removed from hanging 39 on Memphis in a 101-80 win.
Smart's the foundation of a Cowboy offense that's second nationally thus far in scoring, averaging more than a hundred points per game.
Last season, Smart won the USBWA's Wayman Tisdale Award, given annually to the nation's top freshman and was a finalist for multiple player-of-the-year honors as he averaged better than 15 points per game and the Cowboys finished 24-9 and made the NCAA Tournament.
Smart will be the ultimate test this season of Purdue's ability to defend high-scoring guards.
His physicality as a slasher and scorer around the basket will be a colossal challenge for Purdue to deal with, especially without fouling. Part of Smart's game is to draw contact, and if the Boilermakers aren't careful - or even if they are - he might spend his Thanksgiving at the foul line. Smart's also an outstanding offensive rebounder and Purdue's not done a great job this season keeping opposing guards off the glass.
Compounding the difficulty of the matchup for Purdue is that Oklahoma State does have other weapons, and good ones.
Le'Bryan Nash, a 6-7 junior wing, and Markel Brown, a 6-3 senior guard, each considered early moves to the NBA after last season, too. Brown's averaging 18.2 points through five games and Nash is averaging 12.2 and seven rebounds. Five Cowboys are averaging double-figures.
Of critical important to Purdue will be getting Hammons established down low early, as the Cowboys do seem to lack a formidable post presence to counter the Boilermaker center.
The Cowboys' biggest notable contributor is 6-8, 230-pound Michael Cobbins, who averages five points and shoots a little more than 42 percent.
Smart's ability to get to the basket and Hammons' shot-blocking proficiency - he's averaging four-and-a-half per game - will make for an interesting matchup, but also make it imperative Hammons not encounter foul trouble as he has a time or two this season.
Purdue will have a sizeable size advantage in the frontcourt, but the Boilermakers have enjoyed that edge pretty much each time out this season and, other than Hammons' shot-blocking, not come out with a whole lot to show for it, as Purdue's barely outrebounded its five low- and mid-major opponents to date and allowed 76 offensive rebounds.
Hammons, Simpson and Errick Peck have had some success scoring on the inside, but the Boilermakers don't seem to have gotten into a routine getting them the ball yet either.
Suffice to say that if Purdue is going to win against an opponent of this caliber, it'll need its freshmen to play as they mostly have been.
Jay Simpson, Bryson Scott, Basil Smotherman and Stephens have combined to average 30.2 points per game and comprise a significant portion of the depth and balance Purdue's shown during its 5-0 start.
Scott's the reigning Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week
Of note: Oklahoma State is without backup guard Stevie Clark, who was sent home from Florida and is now suspended, Coach Travis Ford announced Tuesday. The freshman has been averaging nearly 10 points a game, to go along with a team-leading five assists per contest. Purdue will play either Butler or Washington State Friday, then have Saturday off before wrapping up Old Spice play Sunday.
Prediction: This is a golden opportunity for the Boilermakers to net what would be considered at this early juncture a "résumé" win, one that would be especially welcomed as part of a non-conference schedule that doesn't afford many such opportunities. But Purdue, thus far at least, hasn't yet given the look of a defensive team that'll be up to the challenge of stopping Smart on the perimeter or keeping Oklahoma State off the boards. Here's a great chance to prove it, though. Oklahoma State 87, Purdue 81
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