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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 1 Arizona set to face No. 3 Purdue in the Indy Classic

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Mason Kumet
Caleb Love throws down a dunk off a fastbreak during a 20-2 run against Wisconsin on Dec. 9 in McKale Center. Both Caleb and Ballo lit up McKale Center with back to back dunks in this scoring run.

The No. 1 Arizona men’s basketball team is set to face off against No. 3 Purdue University at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 2:30 p.m. in one of the season’s most anticipated matchups. The Wildcats (8-0) are coming off of a dominant 98-73 win over No. 23 University of Wisconsin, as Arizona collected its third top-25 victory of the season. The two squads hold two of the longest active non-conference regular season winning streaks, with the Boilers winning 32 straight and Arizona winning 19 straight. 

History vs. Purdue

The Purdue Boilermakers and the Arizona Wildcats share a long and storied history on the basketball court. They first faced each other on Jan 1, 1934, in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue emerged victorious with a score of 34-23, setting the stage for their rivalry. Following a 34-year hiatus, the two teams met again in 1968, where Purdue once again emerged victorious, winning by a massive margin of 98-72. 

They played six more times over the next 20 years, each team winning three games apiece. This Saturday’s game will mark their 13th encounter, with Purdue currently holding an 8-4 lead over Arizona in the series, having won three of their last four matchups since 2000. The Wildcats will be hoping to turn the tables and emerge victorious, while the Boilermakers will look to extend their dominance in this latest matchup.

Purdue players to watch:

The Boilers are led by Matt Painter, who, in his 20th season with the team, boasts a record of 447-204. Painter has led Purdue to 15 NCAA Tournaments, five regular season Big Ten Championships and two Big Ten Tournament Championships. Painter was the NABC Coach of the Year in the 2018-19 season, an award Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd won in the 2021-22 season.

Purdue (9-1) has secured some notable victories, including wins over No. 11 Gonzaga University, No. 7 University of Tennessee and No. 4 Marquette University in the Maui Invitational tournament. Additionally, they emerged victorious in the Hall of Fame Series in Toronto, defeating the University of Alabama. Purdue’s only loss came in a closely contested matchup against now-ranked Northwestern University on the road, with the Boilers falling 92-88 in overtime.

Zach Edey

The reigning National College Basketball Player of the Year is arguably having an even better season than last year. The 7’4” senior is averaging a career-high in both points and blocks, averaging a league-high 24.8 points, 2.6 blocks and 10.8 rebounds per game. Edey is averaging 31.7 points and 11 rebounds per game in Purdue’s previous three games. A force in the paint, Edey is also very good at drawing fouls, as he leads the country by a wide margin, averaging 11.8 free throw attempts per game. 

Braden Smith:

Smith is averaging career highs in points, assists and rebounds. The sophomore averages 13.2 points, 7.2 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game. Smith scored a career-high 27 points in Purdue’s most recent victory over Alabama and has reached double figures in all but two games this season. Smith’s 7.2 assists per game ranks fifth in the country as he is one of the best passers in the country. Over Purdue’s last five games, Smith has averaged 17.6 points, eight assists, and 6.4 rebounds.

Fletcher Loyer:

The second-year guard has been somewhat inconsistent at the start of the season. Loyer’s scoring and assists have dropped compared to last season despite some notable performances where he has scored double figures. Loyer has been unable to maintain a consistent form throughout the season. During three games, he scored a meager four points or less, and his shooting was dismal, with a 0% field goal percentage. However, Loyer has shown flashes of brilliance, scoring a season-high 27 points against Tennessee, a testament to his potential. It’s evident that when in form, Loyer can be one of the best shooters in the country, but his inconsistency has been a persistent issue for the Boilers

Arizona players to watch:

The Wildcats rank second in college basketball in scoring, averaging 94 points per game and a margin of victory of 30.1, leading the nation. Additionally, Arizona ranks second in both total rebounds and assists, averaging 46.1 rebounds and 21.6 assists per game. Furthermore, the Wildcats have five players averaging double figures, all of whom are scoring more than 12 points per game.

Caleb Love:

The University of North Carolina transfer leads the Wildcats in scoring averaging 14.1 points, five rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Love is shooting a career-high 41.5% from the field, and his five rebounds and 4.5 assists per game are both career highs as well. The senior guard has reached double figures in all but one game this season and is averaging 16.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in Arizona’s last five games.

Keshad Johnson:

After transferring from San Diego State University, the fifth-year senior is averaging 12.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. Johnson has improved significantly since last season, with marked progress in points, rebounds and assists. His impact has been vital for the Wildcats, as he reached double figures in every single game for the Wildcats and has recorded at least five rebounds in all but one game this season. 

Oumar Ballo

Ballo, the 7-foot senior, dominates the paint for the Wildcats, averaging 12.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Despite a slight decline in performance, Ballo has consistently delivered double figures in every game this season. Ballo will be tasked to defend Edey, one of the most dominant figures in college basketball. Ballo will need to avoid foul trouble and limit Edey’s opportunities in the paint to keep themselves ahead of the Boilers.

Pelle Larsson:

The senior is averaging a career-high 12.3 points, along with steady averages of 3.9 rebounds and three assists per game. Larsson has scored double-figures in all but one game and is coming off a season-high 21 points against Wisconsin, where he was a perfect 6-6 from the field. Purdue is great at drawing fouls, which tends to be a weakness for Larsson, if he can avoid the foul trouble, he can play a vital role in the success of the Wildcats.


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