After an inexplicable loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers at home on Sunday, the No. 13 Michigan State Spartans (21-5, 10-3 Big Ten) will travel to take on the Purdue Boilermakers (15-10, 5-7).
Tip-off is scheduled for Thursday at 7:00 pm ET and will be televised on ESPN.
For Michigan State, they come into this one on a bit of a slide. After starting the season out at 18-1, the Spartans have now lost four of their last seven ball games.
Now, there’s no question that injuries have certainly gotten the best of Michigan State at times, so much so that only two players on the MSU Basketball roster have been able to suit up for every game this season. However, there’s no excuse for Sunday’s blunder against Nebraska, losing to a team they were clearly more talented than, even with a severely limited Keith Appling (wrist) and Branden Dawson out with a broken hand.
For Thursday’s game against Purdue in particular though, the Spartans will once again be without Dawson, who is actually scheduled to get the pins out of his hands some time over these next couple of days, according to Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo.
As for Appling?
Izzo expressed doubt for his senior guard’s official status for Thursday’s game against Purdue at his weekly press conference on Monday, and brought up the possibility of potentially shutting Appling down for the remainder of the regular season. However, the very next day, Appling was reportedly a full-go in practice, and should be good to go against the Boilermakers.
“I was able to drive with my right hand,” Appling told the Detroit Free press on Tuesday. “So at that point I knew I was getting over the hump a little bit. And then when I got to the gym, I was able to shoot and do some things with my right hand.”
As for the Spartans’ opponents for the night, despite coming off of a nice 82-64 victory of the Indiana Hoosiers last Saturday, the Boilermakers come into this one on a little bit of a slide of their own, having lost five of their last seven games. Purdue hasn’t had a solid win over a good program all season, and will probably be looking for one to boost whatever slim Tournament resume they may have when they welcome the No. 13 MSU Basketball team into town come Thursday.
If there are a few things that Purdue has going for them in this game, it’s that they’ve been able to stay relatively injury free this season, and that they also can bring a lot of guys off the bench.
“They play ten guys ten minutes or more,” Izzo said. “I think in the last game (against Indiana), they played eight guys 18 or 16 minutes or more which is unbelievable. So they are going to just keep bringing waves of guys at you.”
And the Boilermakers do just that, they go ten men deep and are led in scoring by a pair of guards who share the same last name in in senior Terone Johnson (12.2 ppg) and sophomore Ronnie Johnson (10.7 ppg).
The Spartans’ back court will counter with both Appling (14.4 ppg, 4.7 apg) and sophomore Gary Harris (17.4 ppg), who has actually been in a bit of a funk lately, shooting just 29.7 percent from the field over the course of the past four games.
But the match up to watch in this one will be the one down low between Purdue’s 7-footer A.J. Hammons (10.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.1 bpg) and Michigan State’s versatile big man Adreian Payne (16.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg).
While Hammons has proven to be a fantastic rim protector of sorts for the Boilermakers this season, it will be interesting to see how he responds to having to guard Payne outside the paint. Payne is certainly known for his ability to spread the floor, shooting the three ball at a clip of 43.1 percent, so whether or not Hammons adjusts to that will play a major role in the outcome of this game.
At the end of the day, Michigan State is without a doubt the more talented team. But their play as of late suggest they’re vulnerable and Purdue is certainly hungry for a win against a top program right now.
“We got three weeks left in the season and it’s a big three weeks,” Izzo said. “We got some big games coming up, including the one, the first one coming up against Purdue.”