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Know Thy Enemy: Michigan State goes for 2nd round at Purdue

February 16, 2021
Junior forward Aaron Henry takes a midrange shot during the Spartans' 55-54 loss to Purdue on Jan. 8, 2021.
Junior forward Aaron Henry takes a midrange shot during the Spartans' 55-54 loss to Purdue on Jan. 8, 2021. —
Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State basketball's opponent. This weekend State News beat writer Sara Tidwell spoke with Alex Sabri of The Purdue Exponent ahead of Tuesday's game between Purdue and MSU.

After a 30-point deficit caused yet another heartbreaking loss against Iowa in their rematch over the weekend, Michigan State men's basketball has put it in park in West Lafayette, Indiana, to take on Purdue at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Spartans enter the matchup at 4-8 in conference play and 10-8 overall.

This weekend State News sports reporter Sara Tidwell spoke with Alex Sabri of The Purdue Exponent ahead of the Spartans' matchup with the Boilermakers.

Q: In the last matchup between Purdue and MSU, the teams were in a tough defensive battle. Purdue sunk a buzzer beating layup that took the game by a single point and left those watching in shock. What has Purdue been working on, after they were propelled forward like that, to ensure their spot in the campaign is secure?

A: Purdue has worked on building up its confidence and scoring consistency since their last matchup with Michigan State to make sure they can keep a consistent pace with the conference's best teams.

Coach Painter talked about the "law of averages" as a shooter in a recent press conference, saying that good shooters know that even if you miss shots that you know are good shots, if his players keep shooting those good shots, they'll eventually find their way at the bottom of the basket.

Purdue's confidence has shown improvement after being able to hit big shots in some of the game's biggest moments. The Boilers will have to continue working on their ability to find those good shots, especially later in the game, if they want to keep propelling forward in the Big Ten standings and be serious contenders in the future.

Q: With an overall record of 13-8, what are Purdue's strong suits? Weaknesses?

A: Purdue's biggest strength has to be the way they've built up chemistry and trusted their teammates in some of the season's biggest situations. The players are already finding ways to get their teammates the right shots in the right moments, and it seems like their ball-movement and team chemistry is becoming more cohesive every game.

They're starting to know where to look for open shots, who to pass to in certain situations, and where them and their teammates feel comfortable shooting the ball and who they feel comfortable guarding. The team's ability to trust and play off each other has been a huge reason for their recent success, and will hopefully translate into more wins for the rest of the season.

As a younger team, the Boilermakers are going to have to continue to build upon their ability to close out games and get past tough stretches when things aren't going their way. Four of their losses have been decided by five points or less. Purdue was able to keep a lead for a significant portion of their losses against Miami, Minnesota, and Maryland. Being on the other side of a huge scoring streak can be very frustrating, especially for younger players, but if they can find ways to stay level-headed and work past cold streaks, it'll go a long way towards securing victories and top spots in the Big Ten standings for years to come.

Q: How much does Purdue rely on team leaders like Trevion Williams? Who else is emerging into the

A: Though Purdue's experienced players have made a significant contribution to Purdue's success, as three juniors are leading the team in scoring and minutes played, several freshmen have already stepped into significant roles in Matt Painter's system and have been key catalysts for the Boilers on both sides of the floor. Four freshmen have already won the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award ... including two wins from guards Brandon Newman and Jaden Ivey. Against Northwestern, the freshmen were able to score 53 out of the team's 75 points, which was the (highest) amount since the 2007-08 season. The young players are still finding their way in the Big Ten and have some inconsistencies to iron out, but after several big time shots and big time performances, the freshmen have earned their place in the spotlight midway into the season.

Q: What is your score prediction and why?

A: We predict a 66-62 Purdue win. Both sides have reliable and experienced scorers, but this match, just like the last one, will come down to who can play the best team defense and keep the other side's top scorers in check.

For MSU to win this game, they'll have to play strong defense against Purdue's top options and keep them from gaining any kind of consistent rhythm in the paint or at the 3-point line. The Spartans already have very good options on the defensive end, guys who have the length and the strength to play the physical brand of defense needed to keep this Purdue team off balance, but the Boilers have found ways to score in bunches against strong defenses over these past couple of games. Guys like Marcus Bingham Jr. and Joey Hauser are going to have to lock down the post to keep Trevion Williams at bay, while Joshua Langford and Aaron Henry are going to have to guard Purdue's 3-point shooters and keep Williams from finding open shooters and escaping trouble in the post.

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