The plight of every low-major program, even a strong one like Nicholls State, is having to go on the road to take on Power 6 teams. For the Colonels of the Southland Conference, it has produced a mixed bag of results.
Against No. 24 Wisconsin, Nicholls State held a double-digit lead in the second half before falling 71-68. But six days later, Nicholls never mounted a challenge in an 83-61 loss to Oregon State, a team that had lost 10 straight.
Which team will show up on Wednesday when Nicholls State (8-5) travels to No. 3 Purdue (11-1) is anyone’s guess.
With a deep rotation that includes four fifth-year players and four seniors, Nicholls State has the talent and experience to hang with the nation’s elite. But the flip side is the team’s lack of cohesion as five of its top nine scorers are transfers.
Ty Gordon (20.4 points per game) is a threat from 3-point range, making 47 on 39.8 percent accuracy. Ryghe Lyons gives the Colonels presence inside at 6-foot-11.
Transfers Devante Carter (Norfolk State), Latrell Jones (Portland) and Caleb Huffman (Central Michigan) provide firepower on the wings, while Pierce Spencer is the Colonels’ glue player.
“He’s a guy that you have to have on the floor for all of the things that he does — defensively, rebounding, getting steals, kind of setting the table for us on both sides of the ball,” coach Austin Claunch said.
Purdue plays after an eight-day break, while Nicholls State has had a week off as it tries to beat a Big Ten team for the first time in 11 tries.
“We’ve been on the road, traveling, just going from place to place,” Purdue’s Trevion Williams said. “I think this break is going to be very useful. When we get back it’s all business and guys will know what to expect.”
Averaging 1.22 points per possession, Purdue has the nation’s most efficient offense. And the Boilermakers haven’t done it against cupcakes. Of their last nine opponents, seven have been from Power 6 conferences.
Purdue’s fluid offense has come through a deep rotation as 10 players average at least 14.8 minutes per game.
“I got guys on our team that started before that aren’t starting now and that’s hard,” coach Matt Painter said. “We got 10 starters.”
Perimeter threat Jaden Ivey (16.5 points) is Purdue’s top scorer, while 7-4 Zach Edey (14.4 points, 7.5 rebounds per game) and the 6-10 Williams (13.7 points, 8.9 rebounds per game) are a formidable duo inside.
Opponents can’t focus too closely on defending the paint, however, as the Boilermakers rank No. 7 in the nation in 3-point accuracy (40.4 percent) behind Isaiah Thompson (51.4 percent), Sasha Stefanovic (43.7 percent) and Ivey (44.6 percent).
Painter hopes the Boilermakers stay sharp during the holiday break.
“It’s good to kind of decompress and get away from it,” Painter said. “It gets really hard when you have as many guys as we have and are as deep as us. It’s good but it’s also hard because not everybody in the rotation gets consistent minutes.”
–Field Level Media