Purdue Boilermakers vs. Jacksonville Dolphins Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 21st 2023

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Back atop the polls after a resounding victory over the previous No. 1 team in the country, Purdue aims to stay in the top spot for a while.

Fresh off a 92-84 defeat of Arizona on Saturday in Indianapolis, the Boilermakers are back in action on Thursday night in West Lafayette, Ind., with a nonconference matchup against Jacksonville.

Purdue (10-1) leaned on national Player of the Year Zach Edey plus sophomore guards Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer for the bulk of its offense against the Wildcats. Edey was near his norms with 22 points and nine rebounds, but Loyer registered 27 points, nearly 17 over his average, and Smith added 26 points, double his typical output.

It was enough to make one forget that those two struggled mightily last March when the Boilermakers were stunned by Fairleigh Dickinson in the second No. 16 over No. 1 upset in NCAA Tournament history. The duo hit 6 of 20 shots from the floor and combined for 20 points.

Never mind that both played well to earn Purdue a No. 1 seed. Losing in such stunning fashion in a game that mattered more than any other all season canceled all the good for most followers.

“They got thrown into it,” Edey said of last year. “I remember when I was a freshman. It was tough. I wasn’t playing on the No. 1 team in the country and it was still tough for me. I don’t think people really appreciate the situation that they were put in and they did really well.”

Through Monday, Edey was the nation’s second-leading scorer at 24.5 points per game, trailing only Southern Illinois guard Xavier Johnson (24.8 ppg). Smith chips in 14.4 points to go along with 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game, and Loyer contributes 11.7 points per game. The Boilermakers are among the national leaders in 3-point shooting at 40.3 percent and are averaging 86.2 points per contest.

What’s gone unnoticed because of all that firepower is that Purdue not only has the second-most efficient offense, per kenpom.com, but also the nation’s 12th-most efficient defense at 93.1 points per 100 possessions.

That’s the challenge facing Jacksonville (8-4), which is coming off a 75-65 win against UL Monroe on Monday. Guard Marcus Niblack carried the Dolphins with a career-high 29 points plus seven assists, seven steals and six rebounds. He shot 15 of 21 at the foul line.

Jacksonville trailed by 11 points at halftime but used runs of 10-0 and 11-2 to take control in the second half. The Dolphins held the Warhawks to 29.6 percent shooting from the field after halftime to fuel the rally, outscoring the visitors 51-30 in the final 20 minutes.

Third-year Jacksonville coach Jordan Mincy said his team didn’t get off to the start he wanted on Monday.

“I thought we were sluggish coming out of the gate but we got more comfortable as the game went on,” he said. “We made some defensive adjustments at the half, and overall I was pleased with how the guys played in the second half.”

Robert McCray V leads the Dolphins in scoring at 16.8 points per game, while Niblack averages 12.8 and Bryce Workman chips in 12.3 to go along with a team-high 7.2 rebounds.

–Field Level Media

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