PREVIEW: MSU rematches Purdue looking to boost resume
A sapling among red sequoias, MSU men's basketball (16-10, 8-5 Big Ten) heads to No. 16 Purdue (21-5, 10-3 Big Ten) to face big men Caleb Swanigan and Issac Haas.
When these two teams faced off on Jan. 24, the Boilermakers efficiently shot the ball, 49.1 percent from the floor and 52.4 from 3-point range to win, 84-73. Six players scored in double digits for Purdue, Swanigan leading the way with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman forward Miles Bridges had a historic night, scoring 33 points, surpassing MSU legend Scott Skiles for most points in a single game as a freshman. No other Spartan scored in double figures.
“This is one of the biggest games, they’re the only team to beat us on our home court, and it’s just really big for us," Bridges said.
MSU has lost at home one other time this season, against Northeastern, but at home against the Big Ten the Spartans are 6-0 excluding the previous loss to Purdue. On the road in the Big Ten, MSU is 2-4.
The Boilermakers currently lead the Big Ten in: scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, defensive rebounds per game, rebound margin and assists per game.
Swanigan makes a compelling case for Big Ten Player of the Year, averaging 18.7 points per game with 13 rebounds per game. His 18.7 points per game is second in the Big Ten and he leads the Big Ten in rebounding. This season, Swanigan has 20 double-doubles, the nation's best.
“Just stay solid and keep him (Swanigan) off the glass, keep him off the offensive glass," Bridges said about handling him. "If we win the rebounding battle against him, then we will be pretty good.”
Haas, a 7-foot-2 center, skies over freshman forward Nick Ward by 6 inches. When Ward is subbed out for redshirt-sophomore Kenny Goins, that high differential changes to 8 inches.
Purdue is currently riding a four-game win streak. MSU has a small two-game win streak.
As the season turns down the final stretch, MSU has Purdue, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois and Maryland remaining on the schedule.
Stressing to reach its 20th straight March Madness, MSU could use a win against a ranked opponent to help its case. This season the Spartans are just 1-5 against ranked opponents, as Minnesota was ranked when the teams faced off a second time.
Key wins for MSU this season include: Wichita State and Northwestern. However, the Spartans have key losses as well to Northeastern and the 29-point loss to University of Michigan.
“This is a real key victory we really need," Goins said. "Not even just for Big Ten play and end of the Big Ten, this is bigger picture, this is March Madness. This is coming down to the end of the season. We really have to get a couple more big wins to build our resume.”
The game is set to tipoff at 4 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.