February 9th at 7PM on the Big Ten Network.
First and foremost, it appears as though everyone except for Travis Trice will be available for this game which is extremely good news considering the number of injuries which occurred in the last one(all without a foul being called). There is speculation that Trice will be available for the Michigan game but attempting to predict the recovery period on a concussion is a dubious enterprise.
Keep Hammons Under Control (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports)
The Boilermakers(12-11, 5-5 B1G) have been a solid program for many years but it seems as though it is their time for a season of retooling. They struggle to score, averaging 65 points per game along with a shooting percentage of 41% on the year thus far. Purdue’s leading scorer is Terone Johnson(12.4 PPG), followed closely by freshman center A.J. Hammons(11.2 PPG). No one else on the team is averaging in double figures, but D.J. Byrd is close at 9.9 PPG and he hits from three at a 35% rate. One of the things they are doing well, however, is something which would please Tom Izzo: rebounding. Purdue is currently ranked 11th in that category, grabbing an average of 40.6 boards per game(the Spartans average 37.7). Although this is largely a team effort, with everyone contributing several per game, the aforementioned Hammons is pulling down 6.8 per contest. So these guys are not lacking in the effort department and are not likely to roll over despite what the record may indicate. This will be a slug fest.
I'm Baaaaack (Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)
First half. These guys MUST show up in the first half. The Spartans have slept through portions of several games this year and they certainly do not need to push their luck on the road. Keith Appling and Gary Harris carried the team on their backs(and Harris had an aching back already)against Minnesota while they waited for someone else to realize the game had begun. Derrick Nix will have his hands full in the post with the 7-foot freshman and hopefully that challenge will awaken him early. Branden Dawson is basically considered public enemy number one by Purdue since he spurned them to attend MSU(who could blame him, really?)and I look for him to have a big game as the crowd taunts him. The Spartans still need to rebound better, having been outdone by Minnesota 36-27, but the suddenly reliable three-point shooting(50% vs. Minnesota)has made up for their deficiency in that area somewhat. I’d rather see them look inside more, but as teams have focused on defending that strength it is only natural to launch more from outside. The improved perimeter play has been an unexpected development for me and I hope it leads to more opportunities to feed the post for high percentage shots as well. Keep playing inside-out fellas, and take the openings they give you.
Predicition: MSU 72, PUR 64