Michigan St.-Purdue Preview
Despite playing in a conference that boasts six teams in the AP
poll, Purdue is the nation’s only ranked team that hasn’t faced a
Top 25 opponent.
That’s about to change.
The 14th-ranked Boilermakers begin a grueling four-game stretch
against ranked opponents Saturday night when they host No. 17
Michigan State, which has faced more top-flight competition than
any team in the country.
Purdue (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten) has faced two teams currently in the
Top 25 over the past 10 days, but neither Minnesota nor West
Virginia was in the poll until knocking off the Boilermakers.
Those two road losses – by a combined seven points – knocked
Purdue out of the top 10, and coach Matt Painter’s team nearly
stumbled again Wednesday night against Penn State.
But JaJuan Johnson hit an 18-foot jumper with 3 seconds left,
lifting the Boilermakers to a 63-62 win – their 11th straight at
home – and helping them avoid a three-game skid heading into
“We were just happy we survived, to be honest with you,” Painter
said. “We weren’t jumping around celebrating or anything. We knew
we were very fortunate to get this win.”
Purdue is about to get an idea of how good it really is over the
next 11 days. After hosting the Spartans (12-6, 4-2), the
Boilermakers travel to top-ranked Ohio State on Tuesday, return
home to face now-No. 15 Minnesota next Saturday, then visit
18th-ranked Wisconsin on Feb. 1.
Michigan State, meanwhile, has navigated a brutal schedule that
has featured seven Top 25 foes – more than any other team has
The Spartans were 3-3 in those contests heading to Illinois on
Tuesday, when some poor shooting finally caught up with them.
Michigan State survived its previous two games in overtime despite
shooting under 40 percent, but its 37.5 percent effort against the
No. 23 Illini proved costly in a 71-62 loss.
“We had a chance but we could never get over the hump,” coach
Tom Izzo said.
It was Purdue’s struggles from the field – and the Spartans’
defense and rebounding – that made the difference when the teams
last met in West Lafayette. Michigan State outrebounded the
Boilermakers 46-20 and limited Painter’s team to 30.0 percent
shooting in a 53-44 win Feb. 28 – Purdue’s first game after Robbie
Hummel tore his ACL.
E’Twaun Moore missed 10 of 13 shots in that game just 19 days
after scoring a game-high 25 in a 76-64 win at East Lansing.
Moore has been struggling with his shot lately as well, but
Purdue has to hope his 7-of-15 effort against Penn State got him
back on track. He averaged 8.5 points and shot 26.3 percent in the
Boilermakers’ first four games this month.
Johnson, however, is picking up the slack. He’s averaged 26.7
points in his last three games.
“JaJuan is very confident,” Painter said. “I would say that’s
his last step in his development. He’s skilled, he’s athletic, he
can run, he’s coachable, he’s fun to be around, he’s unselfish, but
now, he’s confident.”
Johnson will have his hands full against Michigan State’s
Draymond Green, third in the conference in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and
averaging 18.0 points in the last three games, but Purdue is
unlikely to struggle as much on the boards as it did in the last
meeting. The Spartans led the nation in rebound differential –
plus-8.6 – last season, but they’re tied for 57th – plus-4.4 – in
The Boilermakers’ plus-7.2 differential in Big Ten games is the
best in the conference.
While Moore’s struggles have hurt Purdue recently, Michigan
State can say the same about Durrell Summers. The senior guard was
scoring 15.6 points per game before averaging 6.7 in his last three
games while shooting 30.4 percent, and Izzo kept him out of the
starting lineup against Illinois.