No 3. Boilermakers look for bounce-back game against No. 4 Spartans
Michigan State has already been involved in two matchups of top five teams this season. The Spartans will go through the same experience Saturday afternoon in a crucial Big Ten showdown.
The fourth-ranked Spartans will host No. 3 Purdue at the Breslin Center. During their second game this season, the Spartans were ranked No. 2 and lost to then-No. 1 Duke. When they were ranked No. 3 in late November, they blew out then-No. 5 Notre Dame.
“That doesn’t happen very often,” coach Tom Izzo said. “This is our third top five game of the year, us versus Duke, us versus Notre Dame and now us versus Purdue. When you look at it that way, it’s a privilege for (his team) and I told them that. That’s the privilege and you guys have got to respond to it.”
While Michigan State has big-game experience, the Boilermakers have more veteran players. The Spartans start four sophomores and a freshman. Purdue starts four seniors and a sophomore.
“Sooner or later, the freshmen and sophomores have got to become juniors and seniors,” Izzo said.
The Boilermakers (23-3, 12-1 Big Ten) had their bid for a perfect conference season ruined by a 64-63 home loss to Ohio State on Wednesday. That also snapped Purdue’s school-record 19-game winning streak.
Michigan State (23-3, 11-2) will try to extend its seven-game winning streak. It squeaked past unranked Iowa 96-93 on Tuesday behind 25 points from sophomore forward Miles Bridges (17.7 points per game)
Guard Carsen Edwards, who scored a career-high 28 points against the Buckeyes, leads the Boilermakers at 17.0 points per game. Purdue also has a formidable frontcourt duo in 6-foot-8 Vincent Edwards (15.3 points, 7.8 rebounds) and 7-2 Isaac Haas (14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds).
“I don’t know what we can do to exploit them,” Izzo said. “They’ve still got those four seniors that I think are really solid. Being on the road won’t bother them. They’re a very good shooting team and they’ve got a post presence, so they’ve kind of got a little bit of everything.”
The Boilermakers hadn’t lost since falling on back-to-back nights to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November.
Coach Matt Painter would like to see his club fight harder around the boards. It has been outrebounded in seven consecutive games.
“We lost two games in a row and I think we responded well,” Painter said. “We just have to do a better job of understanding who we are at times. We’re not going to be the best rebounding team in the country but we can be better than we are now.”
Purdue won the regular-season title last year despite four conference losses. Painter knows the margin for error is smaller this season with the Buckeyes tied with his team in the standings and Michigan State nipping at its heels.
“It’s not one of those years like last year where 14-4 is going to win the league,” he said. “You’re going to have to be better than that.”