|Photo: Greg Shamus|
The Michigan State Spartans are looking at another great season and a chance at yet another Final Four under Tom Izzo. Coming off a win against Minnesota, which they made look easy, they will next have to go to Mackey Arena trying to win their third game in four years in Mackey.
The Spartans are a great team with good size that play a lot with three guards and two big men. Two of the guards have good size and the big men are going to make it difficult to guard in the post with Hammons only being able to take down one guy.
In their first meeting of the year against the Spartans, Purdue was beat 84 to 61 after keeping it close all but the last three minutes of the first half, a big let down for the Boilers. The Boilermakers are a young team and I would even argue a different team than when they faced the Spartans the first time.
Here are a few notes from that game:
- Purdue started Lawson, Hammons, Byrd, R. Johnson and T. Johnson
- Hammons was a man scoring 20 points and pulling down 8 rebounds
- Terone struggled, badly, at the time I thought it was a hangover from his great game against the Illini, but he seems to still be in the slump offensively
- Purdue shot 39 percent from the field, 18 percent from beyond the arc and 45 percent from the free throw line, all of which are below Purdue's season average
- Brandon Dawson sucker punched Travis Carroll
This game will have a huge outcome on the rest of the season especially any chance of post season play at all. As a few of you mentioned in the comments on this site, the cupcakes are almost done for the Boilers after Penn State. In Purdue's last ten games, four are on the road and four are against opponents in the top 25 including a game against No. 3 Michigan and the current No. 1 in their house. It's going to be tough to stay at .500 for the season and a win at home against MSU. Don't hold your breath, but this game is winnable if everything goes right.
Here is what it's going to take for the Boilermakers to win this one on Saturday.
|Pack this House!|
Let's start by something WE can all control. Get to Mackey on Saturday. Paint Crew ticket holders, don't let your seat go unfilled, if you are going to leave town for the weekend, give it to someone, if you are a John Purdue Club Member who sits on the floor level east? Don't sell your court side seats to MSU students. The game is at 7pm so get there early and get there ready to cheer. Be ready to unleash everything you have. Even if this team is struggling, there is no reason not to come out and watch them grow and possibly even pull an upset, every team has to start somewhere. Plus, who doesn't want to try and get that taste out of their mouth from last week?
Now to the team, Purdue needs to focus on playing smart basketball. That's one thing I've noticed with this squad, sometimes they don't play smart. Driving into the lane and shooting a floater over three defenders isn't a good decision, kick the ball out and play unselfish ball.
|Photo: Greg Shamus|
Playing defense is the next point of concern. Over the course of this season it has been frustrating to watch this team not play tough defense. Losing to a team after you put it all on the line and have nothing left is one thing, but losing to a team after you trotted up the court to get back on defense is another. There needs to be some accountability out there if this team is to succeed. It's time to quit relying on the upperclassmen as the leaders of this squad, and time for the young guys to step up and take control of this team. Play with pride, play with intensity and play with a drive that is Purdue Basketball.
Keeping Hammons out of foul trouble and feeding him is going to be important. With two centers, Payne and Nix, Tom Izzo has depth to play with if one of those guys gets into trouble, if Hammons does, Purdue must put in Travis Carroll or Sandi Marcius, nothing against Carroll or Chooch, but that's a tough match-up on either of those guys for Purdue, not to mention it takes out almost all offensive out of the post. Hammons is averaging 21.3 points and 10 rebounds in his last three outings, he needs to get the ball.
Containing the perimeter is going to be key as well. Gary Harris in particular is a guy to watch as he is going to try and make another statement against a school that he considered his second choice. In his first match-up with the Boilermakers, Harris was wet, shooting 7-13 from the field and 6-8 from beyond the arc.
|Photo: Greg Shamus|
Shooting better from beyond the arc is going to be key in this one. After getting blanked from the perimeter against Penn State, the Boilers need to step up. Shooting better, doesn't mean shooting often, but just taking good looks and not forcing three point shots would be an improvement here in my mind. It's going to be key for the guards to take good shots in this one as Izzo will probably double Hammons all day forcing Purdue's guards to score.
Keep the other freshmen rolling is also going to be key as well. Ronnie Johnson is coming off his best game as a Boilermaker as he shot 7-12 for 16 points, 3 assists and 5 rebounds while only giving the ball over once. You could say the same about Donnie Hale's performance the last game as well. Hale had a double double against Penn State, his last outing against MSU was bad playing 23 minutes with limited offensive productivity, but if he can build on the Penn State game then it will be good. Finally Raphael Davis is just consistant. He seems to always be playing hard out there and when things aren't going his way he steps back and continues to play good defense.
Free throws need to improve as well, although I've been impressed with Hammons at the line, everyone else needs to be out working on them.
Finally, I think it's time to change up the starting line-up. I have struggled with this for a while but Penn State made it more clear for me. I think it's time to transfer this team over and motivate the upperclassmen to contribute.
I don't think it will happen, but if I was Painter I would play the following line-up, just to try it out at the start of the game:
Ronnie Johnson PG vs Appling
Terone Johnson SG vs Harris
Raphael Davis SG vs Valentine
Donnie Hale PF vs Dawson
A.J. Hammons C vs Payne/Nix
DJ has shown that when he comes off the bench he can do great things and I think it's time to showcase that. He was a non-factor against Penn State and I believe it's time for Painter to send a message. Not to mention against an athletic team like Michigan State, Byrd causes a liability on the defense end of the floor. I'm not saying he is not going to need to contribute to win this game, but DJ will need to play a more concise impact role.
The Boilermakers are going to need the stars to align to pull off the upset on Saturday night, but with your help in the stands and a great showing of effort on the court, this team can get a win that might just jumpstart them the rest of the season and for next year.
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