The lack of experience at the five spot has been a weak link for the Spartans all season long.
While Michigan State has indicated glimpses of the difficulties in the middle, it wasn’t until the green and white traveled to West Lafayette Sunday that it really showed.
Purdue junior center Zach Edey earned a double-double, collecting a new career-high of 38 points against the Spartans.
The Spartans knew Edey would be a problem prior to the matchup, but underestimated just how much he would take over on the floor.
Junior guard Mady Sissoko has overcome some of arguably the best bigs in collegiate basketball, but froze up against Edey on Sunday afternoon. With six to seven inches on him, Sissoko played an ugly first half where he was unable to score on the big and collected just one rebound within his nine minutes of play. He finished with a narrow two rebounds and four points by the end of the night.
When Sissoko faced Edey a few weeks prior in East Lansing, he picked up eight rebounds against the big.
Head Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo described Sunday’s game as Michigan State’s worst defensive performance all season. While the final score doesn’t reflect it, Izzo said there were still some aspects to takeaway as positives.
“I give my team credit,” Izzo said. “We bounced back, we played our butt off.”
Izzo said Edey is bigger than any player he’s ever coached against and credited him for his performance.
Edey set a career-high of 25 points last February against MSU, bumped his record up to 32 at the Breslin Center on Jan. 16 and earned a new high of 38 on Sunday afternoon in West Lafayette.
What is it about MSU that makes Edey so successful?
“They always play super physical and it always gets me going into the game a little bit,” Edey said.
With the second half of Big Ten play underway, the Spartans will need to figure out a way to make up for the insufficiency at center if they want to collect more wins and make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
MSU will have the week to practice and gear up for its next game on Saturday against Rutgers. Michigan State was able to contain Rutgers junior center Clifford Omoruyi to 12 points a few weeks ago.
It will be telling whether the green and white can bounce back after Sunday’s feeble defensive performance to go up against another efficient center giant like Omoruyi.
The six day break could be what the Spartans need to regroup and game plan for the rest of the conference season.
“We’ve gotta have a next game mentality,” sophomore guard Jaden Akins said. “We’ve gotta put this in the past, watch the film on it to see where we can get better and be ready to play for our next game. That’s all we can do.”