PURDUE (14-5, 4-2 Big Ten) AT NO. 9 MICHIGAN STATE (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten)
Location: Jack Breslin Student Events Center
Purdue 43 (No. 8 Big Ten)
Michigan State 4 (No. 1 Big Ten)
Line: Michigan St -7.5 (136)
Purdue Players to Watch: F Robbie Hummel, 6-8 Sr. (16.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.7 apg); G Lewis Jackson, 5-9 Sr. (10 ppg, 3.7 apg, 1.2 spg); G Kelsey Barlow, 6-5 Jr. (8.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg). Hummel broke out of a mini-slump with 17 p oints, 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in Purdue’s 75-68 win over Iowa on Tuesday.
Michigan State Players to Watch: F Draymond Green, 6-7 Sr. (15.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 3.4 apg); G Branden Dawson, 6-6 Fr. (7.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 56.1% FG); G Brandon Wood, 6-2 Sr. (9.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.4 apg). Dawson, a Hoosier who chose Michigan State over Purdue, has struggled of late. He has scored in double-figures six times this year, but none of them came in the last six games.
Storylines: The Boilermakers and Spartans are tied in second place – a half-game behind leader Michigan – in the Big Ten. After a 2-0 start, Purdue has split its last two games, including a home loss to Wisconsin. Michigan State has lost two in a row – on the road at Northwestern and Michigan – following a 15-game winning streak.
Keys: When comparing team state, Michigan State is superior across the board. They shoot better, are far superior on the boards and stack up at least evenly defensively. The one area Purdue could have an advantage is ball security. The Boilermakers turn the ball over just 9.6 times per game and they average 13.9 assists per contest. The Spartans are 12th in the nation in rebounds per game (40.2) and are plus-10 per contest, are 15th in assists (16.7) and 32nd in field goal percentage (47.9). Despite the heartbreaking loss to Michigan, the Spartans out-rebounded the Wolverines 31-18. However, they did allow their rivals to shoot 51 percent from the floor. The Boilers haven’t lost consecutive games this season. The Spartans now have two 2-game losing streaks. Jackson is playing through back spasms and planter fasciitis, but has a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Purdue is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the nation at 61.9 percent. Terone Johnson, who is averaging 12 points in Purdue’s last three games, has made only 18-of-52 foul shots this season. Five Boiler regulars are shooting under 67 percent from the charity stripe. Purdue is a tough road opponent. The Boilers are 3-2 in true road games, including Big Ten victories at Iowa and Minnesota. They have also won at the Breslin Center each of the past two seasons. In those wins, Purdue held the Spartans to a combined 32.7 shooting. Purdue hasn’t won three straight at East Lansing since winning five straight from 1993-98. Michigan State is unbeaten at home this season (11-0) and none of the wins were closer than nine points.
The Bottom Line: These teams similar in a lot of ways, but at East Lansing, the Spartans should win comfortably. If it comes down to crunch time, Purdue has the advantage with the game’s best perimeter go-to scorer in Hummel and the game’s best shooter in Ryne Smith. However, the Spartans have a significant advantage at the foul line and on the boards. That could be the difference.
The Pick: Michigan State 71, Purdue 60.