Will Purdue Men's Basketball win another game this season?
That is a valid question. The last three games have seen lackluster effort and very poor results over the collected 120 minutes of basketball. Purdue won a game, but it felt like it was mostly due to the inferiority of the opponent as opposed to the Boilers outplaying a team. In that game Purdue relied heavily on its youth. Only nine points came from juniors or seniors on the roster and a walk-on true freshman played seven of his combined 17 minutes this year.
It was ugly, but it was a win. Unfortaunately, Purdue closes the season with a brutal stretch that could very easily bounce it out of the NIT. It could also easily put Purdue into the Bubble discussion if a dramatic turnaround happens.
The Boilers play the current No. 1, No. 3, No. 12, and No. 18 rated teams, three teams fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth, and a Northwestern team that already pantsed Purdue by 15. Purdue likely needs to go 4-4 just to reach the NIT.
It's tough, but it starts tomorrow night with No. 12 Michigan State.
Michigan State Spartans
Location: East Lansing, Michigan
2011-12 record: 29-8, 13-5 Big Ten
2012-13 Record: 19-4, 8-2 Big Ten
2012 Postseason: Lost to Louisville 57-44 in NCAA Sweet 16
Blog Representation: The Only Colors (Chris Vannini's Preview)
Series With Purdue: Purdue leads 65-49
Last Purdue win: 67-47 on 2/27/2011 at Michigan State
Last Michigan State win: 84-61 on 1/5/2013 at Michigan State
TV: Big Ten Network
Michigan State by 4
The continuing saga of the last game was Branden Dawson and his secret punch/no punch on Travis Carroll. That storyline dominated a game that turned on a much different play. Purdue found itself in a close game when Anthony Johnson was fouled on a fast break by Travis Trice. As the play continued out of bounds Trice was hit by an inadvertent elbow. The Spartans were awarded two free throws that pushed the lead to 45-41 and started an 18-4 run that pretty much sealed the deal over the next few minutes. The officials completely forgot that Little AJ was also fouled and should have been shooting, but I guess that wasn't important.
This all came after Purdue held a second half lead at 39-38 and was more than holding its own. A.J. Hammons had a bit of a breakout game with 20 points, 7 boards, and three blocks, but also four fouls. D.J. Byrd also had 14. the Boilers struggled to guard Gary Harris, however, who burned Purdue for 22 points on 6 of 8 three-point shooting.
As has been trouble for Purdue all year, the Spartans rotated the ball well and Purdue could not guard the perimeter. Michigan State was 8 of 15 from long range, with Harris doing most of the damage. Purdue was also a dreadful 9 of 20 from the free throw line and got out-rebounded 41-33 with Dawson pulling down 11.
The same that hurt Purdue in that game has been killing them of late. Michigan State played great team basketball on both ends and Purdue did not. Four Spartans were in double figures while Keith Appling supplemented only six points with eight assists. As a team Sparty had 21 assists to only 11 for Purdue.
For Purdue to pull the upset it has to stop getting no-shows from Terone Johnson. TJ was 5 of 19 against Michigan State the first time and has pretty much been AWOL for three straight games now. Byrd also has to hit a few threes and Rapheal Davis needs to be able to hit that corner three and midrange jumper that he had working against Notre Dame.
Playing at home Purdue cannot get outworked again. It should never happen at all, but Indiana, Northwestern, and even Penn State played harder and simply outworked the Boilermakers in the last three games. It's pathetic, really, because Purdue prides itself on tenacity and hard work. The most frustrating aspect of the last three games is that it is clear that has not been there.
There are some very interesting though that could used as a method of change:
- Purdue's best shooter from the floor is surprisingly Travis Carroll. He's over 70% on the season and has shown he can consistently hit the midrange jumper. No one else can. Is it a bad thing to play him at the four with Hammons and Sandi Marcius splitting the five? Carroll's shot is very sound, too, so why not slowly turn him into a desperately needed shooter? Teams are going to give it to him, so why not give him the Nemanaja Calasan "You get two threes per game" look. he did hit a few last year.
- Unfortunately, this may not be the game for that because Dawson at the four easily pushes Carroll around when Adreian Payne is in at the five.
- Do we see more of Stephen Toyra here? He played a stunning seven minutes against Penn State and wasn't exactly bad. What about Neal Beshears, who is said to be a shooter?
- Where in the world has Jacob Lawson been? He seems like he could be a viable 4/5 switch with Donnie Hale and Carroll at the four and Marcius/Hammons at the five.
- Ronnie Johnson was better against Penn State and had a career high in points, but consistency is sorely needed.
- Anthony Johnson played fewer minutes than Toyra on Tuesday. Can he use this as a wake-up call? I still believe he can be a good player, but damn, he tests my patience.
This is still a very tough game for Purdue to win. At the time of the first game I felt we could hang with them (and did for most of the game), while possibly stealing the home game because of the progression of the freshmen. Since then, Michigan State has only lost at Indiana. They aren't blowing teams out, but they are playing good teams and edging them at the end. Appling is light years better than RJ right now and if Purdue continues to refuse to cover guys like Trice and Harris on the perimeter it is going to be a long night. Purdue only has a chance if the effort is there.
Prediction: Michigan State 72, Purdue 61