No. 4 Purdue battles Mich. St. with eyes on league title
Both No. 4 Purdue and host Michigan State figure to have a sense of desperation on Saturday when they meet for a matinee tilt in East Lansing, Mich., but for different reasons.
Purdue wants to keep pace atop the Big Ten standings and keep pushing for a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Boilermakers (24-4, 13-4 Big Ten) have been on a roll lately, winning nine of their last 10 games and three in a row, the latest an 84-72 decision at home over a surging Rutgers team on Sunday.
The game at Michigan State will start a critical finishing stretch to the regular season for Purdue, which will also play at Wisconsin on Tuesday and host rival Indiana on March 5.
Purdue entered Thursday tied with Wisconsin for the top spot in the league standings.
Following the win over Rutgers, Purdue head coach Matt Painter said, like pretty much all basketball teams, life is easier for his squad when shots are going in.
"They're always energized when the ball goes in," Painter said. "Our struggles have been trying to grind it when the ball doesn't go in. That's been our issue all year."
Scoring often hasn't been a problem for Purdue, given it is averaging 82.2 points a game this year, second in the league behind Iowa. Leading the way for Purdue is likely NBA lottery pick Jaden Ivey, who is averaging 17.3 points a game.
The next test for the Boilermakers is a Michigan State team that will be desperate just to get a win, because the Spartans enter the game in a free fall.
After starting 14-2 and 5-0 in Big Ten play, Michigan State has lost seven of its last 11 games and is now trying to hold on to hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Spartans (18-9, 9-7) were still in decent shape in the NET rankings at No. 36 going into play on Thursday, but it's been an ugly stretch of basketball. Michigan State has lost five its last six games and is coming off an 86-60 blowout loss at Iowa on Tuesday.
Following the game, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo vowed that changes were coming to the lineup, but wouldn't specify exactly what those changes are.
"There will be some things that will be changed," Izzo said. "We'll change them up and see if we can get this thing back."
Throughout the season, the big issue for Michigan State offensively has been turnovers.
Michigan State leads the league in turnovers at 13.7 per game, and it hasn't helped that senior leading scorer Gabe Brown has struggled mightily of late. Brown went scoreless against Iowa and is averaging 6.6 points and shooting 31.9 percent from the field in his last 10 games.
Now, Brown and Michigan State will have to somehow try and turn things around against one of the hotter teams in the country, in what is the only regular-season meeting between the teams.
"We will get better," Izzo said. "We haven't quit. We will get better."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 24, 2022