With a sweep of the Spartans Purdue can deal a mortal blow to their NCAA hopes.
Every season has a turning point. For Purdue this year, it came on January 8th in East Lansing. We talk about how the Boilers let games at Maryland and Minnesota in the last two weeks slip away, and there is no doubt we let those slip away. On Janaury 8th, Purdue absolutely stole a win.
Purdue led at 8-7 with 13:17 left in the first half before Josh Langford scored on a jumper, starting a 13-0 Spartan run. Langford would score 54 seconds into the second half and push the Michigan State lead to 17. At that point things looked really bad. Purdue was facing a still ranked Michigan State on its home floor, it looked awful in managing only 16 first half points, and it was staring down the barrel of a fifth straight road loss, fourth loss overall in five games, and a 7-6 overall record.
Instead, the game became the anti-Purdue. It was the opposite of the loss in Coral Gables a month earlier. In that one Purdue had its traditional “lead for 39 minutes only to lose it in the end” and fell apart after leading by 20+ at one point. In East Lansing, Purdue flipped the script. With 19 seconds left Purdue trailed by four after Aaron Henry missed a free throw, but made every play it needed to make and got every bounce it needed to have, from Eric Hunter Jr. making two free throws and forcing a turnover, to Trevion Williams hitting a free throw, to Zach Edey tipping the ball into a fortuitous tie-up with Mason Gillis (and thankfully, Purdue had the arrow, to Trevion hitting the game-winning shot and Gillis providing critical defense on the final play.
It was a theft, but it was a theft that spurred a critical four-game win streak. When Purdue makes the NCAA Tournament this year, it will be because of those final 19 seconds in East Lansing.
From: East Lansing, MI
Date : Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Tip Time: 7pm ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2019-20 Record: 22-9, 14-6 Big Ten (Big Ten Co-Champion)
2020-21 Record: 10-8, 4-8 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: The Only Colors
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 71-55
Last Michigan State Win: 77-59 at Michigan State on 1/8/2019
Last Purdue Win: 55-54 at Michigan State on 1/8/2021
NCAA Tournament History: 33 Appearances (22 consecutive), 1979 & 2000 National Champion
Coach: Tom Izzo (638-249 in 25th season at Michigan State)
It is bizarre to look at the Big Ten standings in mid-February and see Michigan State sitting in 10th place. This is MICHIGAN STATE under TOM IZZO. This doesn’t happen. They have had some down years, but their down years are “Make the tournament as a 7-10 seed and still cause havoc.” They haven’t missed the NCAAs since 1997, and in that time they have won the conference 10 times, reached 8 Final Fours, and even won it all once. They have run this league for nearly a quarter century.
Not this year though. There are, indeed, extenuating circumstances. After losing to Purdue the Spartans had a 20 day COVID pause. They have also had some appalling losses. Michigan does not lose games by 30 points, but they have now done it twice, to Rutgers and Iowa. The Iowa loss was even at home. They have beaten Nebraska and survived Penn State, but if their NCAA run is going to continue they have a very thin needle to thread. They are sitting in the 90s in the NET rankings, are 2-7 against Quad 1, and they might need to win out just to have a chance.
It doesn’t help that Michigan State is ranked 10th or worse in the conference in most offensive categories. Since the Purdue game they have struggled to reach 60 points. They were only over 70 once, in an 84-78 loss at Iowa, and we know Iowa is averse to defense. On Saturday they lost at home to the Hawkeyes 88-58 and on January 28 they had a shocking 67-37 loss at Rutgers.
Back in January we saw that they can play defense. They cause a ton of trouble in the first half against us, but when the defense breaks down they do not have the offensive firepower to keep up. Aaron Henry and Joey Hauser lead them offensively, but they had absolutely no answer for Trevion Williams, who had 26 and nine rebounds. As a freshman in Mackey Tre had a 13 and 12 and last year he had a 16 and 7 with four assists. It is safe to say that Tre likes playing Michigan State.
Finally, the Spartans are coming to Mackey Arena, which is their personal house of horrors lately. They have not won in West Lafayette since 2014 (though, to be fair, this is only their fifth game in that time), and they have lost by 29, 10, and 17 in their last three trips. Of course, it will not be typical Mackey, but even this year Purdue has been a much better team at home and doesn’t figure to shoot 3 of 24 from three again.
It is the name that gives me pause though. This is still Michigan State and it is still Tom Izzo. That alone means they have talent and are dangerous. They are currently a desperate team who needs a win or their season is over. So far Purdue has seen Maryland and Minnesota turn things around with late wins over us, so do not count them out. As always, Purdue needs consistency. especially from long range. Hitting only twice from three like at Minnesota on Thursday is not enough.
I like our chances. A win puts us just one victory away from the 10 Big Ten wins I feel we need in order to be safe on Selection Sunday in 27 days, but it is still Michigan State. They can never be overlooked.