Know Thy Enemy: Boilermakers' weakness may be rebounding
Saturday could be very telling for both teams on the court.
The No. 4 Spartans hosts No. 3 Purdue at the Breslin Center at 4 p.m. Saturday. MSU (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten) is looking for its eighth straight win, while the Boilermakers (23-3, 12-1) had its 19-game win streak broken by No. 14 Ohio State in a 64-63 loss Wednesday night.
To get a better understanding of Purdue, The State News talked with Rebecca Schneider, assistant sports editor for the Purdue Exponent, the school’s student publication.
Here’s what she had to say:
Q: Starting with Purdue’s loss to No. 14 Ohio State on Wednesday night, what was the sentiment in the locker room after losing such a close game.
Schneider: “The players came out first for Purdue and they were still in their jerseys. You could tell they were just defeated. It wasn’t so much that it was a bad loss or a close loss, it was kind of the realization that while they knew it would come to an end, it was kind of like it came to an end against a ranked opponent, at home. We had the second-longest home winning streak and it was just a very defeated feeling.”
Q: Looking at things from an outsider, Purdue is still a very good team. They’re a consensus top 10, evan a top-5 team and they only have three losses. What has the team done well all season long, and what have teams been able to exploit in their three losses?
Schneider: “I think all season, they’ve just had a composure about them. When you put four seniors on a team they have experience, and they’ve had their fair share of heartbreaking losses in the (NCAA) Tournament and upsets that they should not have lost those games. When we almost lost to Maryland, Rutgers was a close game, Indiana — we almost lost that one away — they kind of have a composure about them that they don’t panic. They understand we’re going to change a game plan, they’re double-teaming (Isaac) Haas and kick it out, they’re playing zone defense, lets drive it in with Haas.
“Haas said it best. He said, ‘The losses in the Bahamas and (Wednesday’s) loss (to Ohio State) were because of rebounding and turnovers.”
Q: With the way this season has shaken out, is there an expectation for (head coach) Matt Painter or the players to reach a Final Four? I can tell you that MSU has made it a goal to win a National Championship. Is that the same kind of sentiment?
Schneider: “I think the last time Purdue reached the Final Four was 1980. Purdue fans don’t—not they shouldn’t have high expectations—but they don’t have the highest expectations because we’ve never had that success.
“I think with this loss, a lot of fans might not be so hopeful about the Final Four, but I don’t think it’s affected the players at all, or Painter. I think they know they’re a good team, a strong team … there’s still so many things that they’re good at. I don’t think it's affected them.”
Q: Looking ahead to Saturday, is there any matchup you’re looking forward to? Personally, I like the Jaren Jackson Jr. vs. Isaac Haas matchup and think it brings some good storylines. But what do you think?
Schneider: “With Kam Williams being gone, (Ohio State) Keita Bates-Diop had to rotate between the four and the five all night. So we got to see Keita Bates-Diop go up against Haas and Vincent Edwards. I don’t know if you could even picture a better matchup than that.
(Jackson) is still a freshman. He’s still learning the game. Obviously Bridges is there and he’s been a huge help for him. But he’s still learning the game and I don’t think there’s a better person he’d be matched up against than Haas. Haas has spent four years playing in the Big Ten, he’s 7-foot-2, he’s lost weight and gained muscle, he’s done everything he needs to. I think this matchup is going to show Jackson what he can become.”
Q: Score prediction and why?
Schneider: Purdue 72, MSU 70
”I think the first half is going to be similar to Ohio State: slow, very much defensive, not a lot of offense, scorers are still trying to find their shot. But I think in the second half it will take off. … I think this Ohio State loss has humbled them and I think they play with ferocity that they’ve had at the beginning of the season and the middle of the season they haven’t really had the last few games.”