Penn State coach: Purdue basketball has 'best team, best player, best coach'
WEST LAFAYETTE − Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry was asked to provide an opening statement.
Keep in mind, the Nittany Lions are a good team, one that just thumped Michigan by 22 points last Sunday.
But on this night, try as they might, they could do nothing to stop the top-ranked team in the country.
Purdue 80, Penn State 60. Final. On a night where Shrewsberry said his team didn't play poorly.
"This opening statement is going to be very short, very succinct and very to the point," Shrewsberry said with a stoic look on his face. "Best team in the country. Best player in the country. Best coach in the country."
Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry on Purdue, "Best team in the country. Best player in the country. Best coach in the country."
— Sam King (@samueltking) February 2, 2023
Shrewsberry knows this Purdue program better than most, and certainly more than any opposing Big Ten coach.
He had two two-year stints at Purdue, sandwiching a six-year run with the Boston Celtics. Shrewsberry left Boilermaker coach Matt Painter's staff in 2021 to take over Penn State's program.
Purdue was good then.
It's better now.
Well, for one, the Boilermakers have a road game against rival Indiana on Saturday and the only game that mattered this week was Penn State.
More:Career night from Mason Gillis leads Purdue basketball over Penn State
"It’s easy to look around the league and see that we’re in a good spot, but we have to keep moving one game at a time," said junior captain Ethan Morton, a high-volume scorer in high school who has bought in to being an elite defender. "I thought it was great that we were able to get this one tonight because I feel like a lot of teams, even maybe teams we’ve been on previously, would have been looking ahead to Saturday before this game tonight.
"It is great that we could get it done. This next game is obviously big, but it’s just as big as the rest of them because it’s a Big Ten game."
That's the approach coaches hope for.
Getting the players to stay focused on the game-by-game mentality is easier said than done.
Mason Gillis, who scorched Penn State for 29 points with a Mackey Arena record nine 3-pointers Wednesday, never lets his teammates forget.
"Mason says it almost every day at practice, one game at a time, one step closer to our goal, which our first of three goals is a Big Ten championship and we work from there," Morton said.
What makes Purdue so good, and Shrewsberry is not alone in sharing this, is you have to choose what to defend.
Zach Edey is 7-foot-4 and if you play him straight up, he'll eat you alive.
"They have the most dominant player in college basketball and you put guys around him that fit perfectly, that shoot it, that move it, that pass it," Shrewsberry said.
Dudes, as Shrewsberry called them, who can seemingly fill every facet that makes an offense successful. Choose your gimmicked up Edey defense and Purdue can torch you from the outside. And when you think you've figured that out − Shrewsberry wanted to limit shots for Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith and Edey and they took eight, nine and nine, respectively − you get a Gillis situation where you leave a player open and he makes 9 of 12 from beyond the arc.
"I think coach has been building towards this, building towards this group and I am sure he is having a hell of a time coaching them," Shrewsberry said. "We competed here. This team is a buzzsaw, man. We competed. We didn’t not show up. They just played really well."
The Boilermakers are comfortably in front in the Big Ten standings, three games ahead of the field in the loss column.
It should be a forgone conclusion that Purdue is on its way to a 25th Big Ten title.
Painter can point to last season as a reminder not to get ahead of yourself.
"That’s an NCAA tournament team. Penn State is an NCAA tournament team, so that’s what I told our guys," Painter said. "How can’t you get up to play a team that is probably going to be in the NCAA tournament and have that kind of energy? But how can’t you play like each game matters to hopefully win the Big Ten championship? You start losing games, that’s going to effect you.
"That’s where we were last year. We were 14-6, which is a good record. Winning 70 percent of your conference games is still good, but we should have been better. We let things slip away and that’s my fault and that’s our guys’ fault. We let some things slip away. Now you have a chance with this group to not let things slip away."
Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Penn State coach: Purdue has 'best team, best player, best coach'