On Saturday, freshman forward Noah Vonleh, the Big Ten’s leading rebounder, will challenge Purdue’s A.J. Hammons, Big Ten leader in blocks per game.
Vonleh and the IU men’s basketball team (14-10, 4-7) lead the Big Ten in rebounding margin per game, out-rebounding their opponents by 10.5 boards per game.
Purdue leads the conference in blocked shots per game with 5.5 and in offensive rebounds per game with 14.6.
Needless to say, Vonleh and Hammons are the core reasons why their teams have found success on the glass this season.
Vonleh averages 9.6 rebounds per game, while pulling down an average of 2.6 offensive rebounds per game. Hammons, meanwhile, grabs an average of 7.4 rebounds per game, 2.5 of which come on the offensive glass.
Undoubtedly, this will be one of the matchups to watch when the two are pitted against one another.
Vonleh has a nose for the basketball, Purdue Coach Matt Painter said during the Big Ten teleconference call Monday.
“Well he’s a really good player, obviously,” Painter said. “He can really rebound the basketball. He does a good job of having a good nose for the basketball.”
This season, Vonleh averages 11.5 points per game to Hammons’ 10.9. Vonleh shoots the ball slightly better than Hammons does from the field, shooting 54.2 percent compared to Hammons’ 50.6 percent.
Both players struggled in their most recent games. Against Penn State, Vonleh was double-teamed regularly, causing him to commit three turnovers in the game.
And though he was two points shy of his 11th double-double of the season, Vonleh attempted only three shots Wednesday.
After his team lost to Penn State, IU Coach Tom Crean said turnovers, especially late in the game, were inexcusable.
“The turnovers, there is no excuse,” Crean said. “The only way we’ll be able to get better is to come back and get better. So that’s all we can do.”
Hammons committed five turnovers against Ohio State Feb. 8. For Purdue to be a successful team, Painter said Hammons needs to cut down on his turnovers.
“When he shoots on balance shots and takes his time and let’s things come to him he’s pretty effective,” Painter said of Hammons’s 11 point, seven rebound performance at Ohio State. “But I mean, he’s had too many turnovers.
“He’s gotta do a better job of giving us a chance as a team if he’s gonna get the ball that much.”
Vonleh and Hammons are listed at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds and 7 foot, 251 pounds, respectively.
And as other Big Ten foe double-team and collapse on them, look for two of the Big Ten’s biggest players to be matched up one-on-one with each other.
Painter said Vonleh is a difficult player to prepare for, both offensive and defensively, because of his athleticism and mobility on both ends of the court.
“But when he gets the ball in scoring position and he’s active, he really gives them that dimension that they need on both ends of the court,” Painter said. “He’s a tough matchup because of his quickness and athleticism. You see his real ability, especially on the defensive end, when they have the confidence to put him on someone like (Michigan’s) Glenn Robinson and move his feet and chase him around the court, that really speaks volumes about his mobility.”
Follow reporter John Bauernfeind on Twitter @JohnBauernfeind