Michigan St.-Purdue Preview
Caleb Swanigan called Tom Izzo in April to let him know he'd be joining his friend and fellow five-star big man Deyonta Davis at Michigan State in the fall, but the coach seemed more surprised about Swanigan's decision than anything.
It turned out Izzo had a reason to be apprehensive because less than a month later, Swanigan decommitted and signed with Purdue.
Izzo maintains there are no hard feelings as the eight-ranked Spartans visit the No. 18 Boilermakers on Tuesday night seeking an eighth consecutive victory in the series.
Davis' lobbying of his former AAU teammate seemed to work when Swanigan said he thought Michigan State "was the best place for me." His change of heart was a big recruiting coup for coach Matt Painter and Purdue (19-5, 7-4), which has one of the nation's most imposing front lines with Swanigan, A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.
Swanigan leads the Big Ten with 9.0 rebounds per game, but Izzo has been more than pleased with the development of Davis, who has started the last six and is jumping on the radar of NBA scouts.
"There will be no, 'Let's go beat Purdue because of (Swanigan),'" Izzo said. "We want to beat Purdue because we want to beat Purdue. ... Everything is cool and everything is good. I pull for him, I really do. It doesn't bother me one bit.
"I don't know how it would have ended up if they would have both been here, but I definitely like where I see our guy going and that's the one I coach every day."
Rather than becoming teammates, Swanigan and Davis will be matched up against each other from the opening tip.
"I'm trying to go into it like any other game and just trying to get a win," Swanigan said. "I think it's going to be fun and competitive. (Davis) is a good competitor so it's going to be a challenge for me."
Purdue makes no secret about wanting to get the ball inside, and it shot 56.8 percent from inside the arc Saturday at then-No. 4 Maryland. However, the Boilermakers were 3 of 25 from 3-point range, and the result was a 72-61 loss that was its 18th in a row against top-10 teams since beating second-ranked Ohio State on Feb. 20, 2011.
The Boilermakers are third in the country in rebounding differential at plus-11.8 and are the only team yet to be outrebounded, though the Terrapins matched them with 37.
That allowed Michigan State (20-4, 7-4) to take over the national lead at plus-12.8 after holding a 35-20 edge in Saturday's 89-73 rout at rival Michigan. Bryn Forbes scored 29 points and Denzel Valentine finished with 21, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Spartans, who shot 64 percent for their best performance in nearly three years.
They also hit 14 of 22 from long range - Forbes went 8 of 10 - and lead the conference at 42.4 percent. They've been even better at 58.8 over their last three.
"I'm worried a little bit about becoming a 3-point shooting team. I don't want that," Izzo said after his team won its fourth straight since a three-game skid. "I want to be able to shoot 3s, but we've got to be a balanced team - get it inside, get it outside."
Michigan State is plenty balanced and efficient on both sides of the ball. It ranks third in the Big Ten in shooting (48.4 percent) and scoring (79.4 per game) but also leads the conference in field-goal percentage defense (37.0) and scoring defense (62.9).
Purdue is second in both defensive categories, holding opponents to 38.2 percent from the field and 63.0 points per game.
The Boilermakers, who last beat the Spartans on Feb. 27, 2011, could have guard Kendall Stephens back after he missed the last four due to the death of a close friend.