It’s been eight years since the Arizona Wildcats lost three games in a row, but it’s on the verge of happening in the Bahamas this November.
After dropping consecutive contests to NC State and SMU, the second-ranked Wildcats (3-2) will battle the No. 18 Purdue Boilermakers (4-2) on Friday for seventh place in Battle 4 Atlantis.
Both teams have stunningly lost two straight and will look to get back in the win column Friday in their final game on the island.
Here is how you can watch, along with a preview of what to expect from Purdue.
How to watch
Game time: 7:30 p.m. MST
TV (sorta): ESPN3
Live stream: Watch ESPN
A look at Purdue
The 18th-ranked Boilermakers opened the season with four wins against SIU Edwardsville, Chicago State, Marquette, and Fairfield. Then they got to the Bahamas and the wheels fell off.
Purdue lost to Tennessee 77-75 in overtime on Wednesday, then fell to Western Kentucky 77-73 on Thursday. The Hilltoppers led by as many as 13 in the first half.
“Today was just a dismal effort,” wrote Travis Miller of Hammer and Rails, Purdue’s SB Nation site. “Western Kentucky came in with only 7 scholarship players. Purdue had a huge size advantage. This should have been an easy one, but instead, the same lackluster rebounding, poor decision making on offense, and defensive lapses kept WKU in front.”
The Boilermakers, generally a good 3-point shooting team, shot just 8-27 from behind the arc against WKU.
For the season, Purdue is shooting 43.1 percent from 3, the 23rd-best percentage in college basketball. KenPom ranks Purdue’s offense as the 14th-best in the country.
The Boilermakers take quick shots, rating 12th in the country in average possession length, and generally share the ball well, assisting on 62.5 percent of their baskets. But Purdue has had more turnovers than assists in Atlantis so far.
The Boilermakers start four seniors and are the biggest team Arizona has faced this season.
Starting center Isaac Haas stands at 7-foot-2, while his backup, Matt Haarms, is 7-foot-3. They both average roughly 19 minutes per game.
Haas was outstanding against WKU, scoring 22 points on just eight shots.
He is averaging 14.8 PPG while shooting 65 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free-throw line this season.
The Boilermakers surround him with a host of lethal shooters.
Sophomore guard Carsen Edwards, Purdue’s leading scorer, is shooting 38.7 percent from 3 and averaging 17.3 PPG.
Senior guard Dakota Mathias, averaging 14.8 PPG, has sunk 17 of his 29 3-point attempts (.586). Fellow senior guard P.J. Thompson is shooting 19-34 (.559) from 3. Even Vincent Edwards, a 6-foot-8 senior averaging 13.5 PPG and 9.2 RPG, is 7-21 (.333) from 3.
That said, Purdue has only shot 33 percent from 3 during Battle 4 Atlantis and hasn’t had much production from its bench, racking up just 12 bench points in two games.
The Boilermakers have also been outrebounded in both losses, and are a poor defensive rebounding team overall, ranking 227th (of 351) in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, despite having two players over 7-feet tall.
Tennessee had 21 second-chance points vs. Purdue; WKU tallied 17.
That is the main reason why Purdue’s defense, ranking as the 33rd-best defensive team in college basketball, lags behind its offense. Arizona is a strong offensive rebounding team, so the Wildcats may be able to take advantage there.
The other reason Purdue isn’t a great defensive team is because it doesn’t defend the 3 well.
Opponents have shot 36 percent or better from behind the arc in the last four games. Tennessee shot 9-23 (.391) from 3 while WKU shot 5-12 (.417).
In all, KenPom projects Arizona will beat Purdue 78-75 with a 59 percent win probability.
The winner gets seventh place in Battle 4 Atlantis, while the loser heads back to the mainland with three more losses than it left with.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire