Friday’s men’s basketball game against Omaha, along with the result of another game that night, could be a first in Purdue’s basketball history.
no. 3 Purdue (5-0) will face Omaha (1-4) at Mackey Arena on Saturday at 2pm – that’s a situation the Boilermakers have under control. But a match of No. 1 Gonzaga against No. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Continental Tire Challenge in Las Vegas should intrigue Purdue fans. Why? On Tuesday, Gonzaga blasted No. 2 UCLA – also in Las Vegas – 83-63. If, and it’s a big if, Duke beats Gonzaga, Purdue is poised to become the No. 1 team in the nation when the Top 25 polls are released on Monday.
Since the Top 25 polls (originally the Top 20) began — the Associated Press and Coaches polls both began during the 1950-51 season — the Boilers have never reached the top. Purdue has been at #2 for 10 weeks over the years, most recently in March 1988. The longest the Boilers have been at #2 is five consecutive weeks from February 8 to March 7, 1988.
But the first part of the equation is beating the Mavericks. Omaha won its first game of the season against Hastings 67-57, but has since lost a run of four games. Those include games at Ball State, at Kansas State, at Montana and at Texas Tech. In their last two games – Montana and Texas Tech – the Mavericks scored just 47 and 40 points, respectively.
They don’t have a single player with a double-digit average this season. The closest player to a double-digit average is 6-5 junior guard Kyle Luedtke, who has an average of 9.6 points per game, despite not having started a game for Omaha yet. Nick Ferrarini, a 6-5 senior guard, is second with 8.0 points per game, but he only played in two games and neither as a starter.
However, the third leading scorer, 6-7 freshman forward Frankie Fidler (7.4 points per game), has started every game.
Two other players have started all five games. That includes 6-1 junior guard Felix Lemetti (6.8 ppg) and 6-1 senior guard Sam’i Roe (5.2 ppg).
The team has not been shooting very well this season. He shoots 36.3 percent from the field, including 31.2 percent from three-point range. It shoots 66.2 percent from the free-throw line, but has only 65 attempts. In Omaha’s five games, it has scored 287 points, or 57.4 per game.
By comparison, Purdue’s numbers are significantly better. Four players score in double figures: Zach Edey (17.2 ppg), Jaden Ivey (15.6), Sasha Stefanovic (14.8) and Trevion Williams (12.8). Purdue’s fifth leading scorer – Caleb Furst (9.6) outscores Omaha’s leading scorer.
The Ketelmakers shoot better from the field (52.9 percent), 3-point distance (42.3 percent) and the line (74.6 percent). In its first five games, Purdue has scored 457 points, or 91.4 per game. That means the Boilermakers have scored 170 points more than the Mavericks this season.
Other statistical differences are not as dramatic, but still significant. Omaha has had 170 rebounds, Purdue has had 209. Omaha has 51 assists, Purdue 96. Omaha’s had 68 turnovers, Purdue 62. Omaha’s had 29 steals, Purdue 32.
Omaha is coached by Derrin Hansen, now in his 17th season. His record stands at 249-239. He won two conference titles: the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association (2010) and the North Central Conference (2008) before the Mavericks joined Division I in the 2011-12 season.
The 53-year-old coach has had four winning seasons as a D-1 coach, most recently in 2018-19 with a 19-10 score.
He is second in all victories at the school, behind Bob Hansen who won 382 games in 25 seasons.
The Black Friday game with Purdue airs on BTN+ and is not available for free.
• Purdue is 5-0 for the first time since the 2015-16 season. It’s the sixth time Coach Matt Painter has stared 5-0 in 17 seasons. If Purdue beats Omaha, it will only be the third time it has been 6-0 under Painter. The other times were 2009-10 (14-0), 2015-16 (11-0).
• Purdue has won 10 consecutive non-conference home games with a combined 300 points. Only two games have been decided with less than 25 points.
• Purdue ranks #2 in offensive efficiency behind Gonzaga. Other national top 10 rankings include not only No. 3 in the AP Top 25, but also: No. 4 in fouls scoring, No. 8 in field goal percentage, and No. 10 in rebound margin.
• Sasha Stefanvoic (157) needs four three-pointers to tie PJ Thompson (161) for 15th in career three-pointers made in a career.
• Painter (360) needs four wins to match Indiana’s Branch McCracken (364 of 1938-65) for seventh on the Big Ten’s all-time win list. Since 1980, only two Purdue coaches have won 872 games – former coach Gene Keyy (512) and Painter (360).
• Purdue is 8-0 all-time against Summit League teams, against Denver (1-0) and Western Illinois (6-0).
• After the tournament win in Connecticut, Purdue moved to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 Ranking (and got one vote in first place). It is Purdue’s highest ranking since the 2017-18 season, when it was number 3 for four weeks.
– Information from Purdue Athletics contributed to this report.