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February 8, 2013

Game 24: Michigan State

These Purdue-Michigan State games have had a funny way lately of getting more than a little testy.

And when the 12th-ranked Spartans visit Mackey Arena Saturday night for a 7 p.m. tip-off, there's a good chance it'll happen again.

This time, Coach Matt Painter hopes, his team will handle it better than it did when it lost 84-61 in East Lansing Jan. 5.

That was a close game through the game's first 25 minutes. As Michigan State pulled away, things got chippy, though, and after Spartan forward Branden Dawson threw a punch at Purdue's Travis Carroll, things really went sideways for the Boilermakers.

"What I was upset with was how we handled some things that went against us," Painter said, when asked this week about the punch, for which no punishment came down from the Big Ten. "We had some guys after that that wanted to fight - literally wanted to fight - but then we get beat by 25 points. If they want to fight somebody, why can't they get a rebound? Why can't they keep their man in front of them? They took us to the woodshed right there, they out-toughed us and they out-manned us and got into us. We'll see. Our guys can get in that huddle and say what they want. Let's see if they can do something."

Purdue played Michigan State competitively in East Lansing when freshman center A.J. Hammons was on the floor. He finished with 20 points in that game, but was lost to the bench to foul trouble around the time the game got away from Purdue.

The Boilermakers stacked up against the Spartans with their standout rookie on the floor, giving them reason to believe it can happen again Saturday night.

If the 7-footer can stay on the floor.

"It's important for him to stay out of foul trouble," Painter said, "and just play smart and at times, just stay big on guys, especially when he gets behind plays. Make them score over you. If they do, it's better than getting a foul."

Hammons will have to be physical around the basket to give Purdue a chance against one of college basketball's most revered rebounding teams.

But against Michigan State, everything is physical. And with Boilermaker legacy Gary Harris visiting Mackey Arena for the first time and with Dawson, profoundly unpopular at Purdue, returning to West Lafayette, a charged-up Saturday night crowd will certainly add to the atmosphere.

"We're two rough-playing teams. When you practice to play Michigan State, it has to get rough rebounding-wise, and if you let them, they will definitely smash you on the boards," Purdue guard Terone Johnson said of the testiness that's developed in recent games between these two teams. "I don't think it's something they like when you try to do it back to them. It's gotten rough the past couple times we've played them and I think we're up for the challenge. We really have nothing to lose.

"It's just being smart with it and not getting out of hand. People can start talking or trying to do too much just out of frustration because it's a tough game. We have to be smart about it."

As usual, 19-4 Michigan State's right in the thick of the race for a Big Ten championship, tied with Michigan and Indiana atop the league with an 8-2 record and a home meeting with the Wolverines upcoming.

Purdue, meanwhile, is 5-5 in the league, 12-11 overall, and looking for its first win against an opponent ahead of it in the conference standings.

"From here on out, any win is what we need," senior D.J. Byrd said, "but especially a signature win like this, it would be great for us."

Projected Lineups
G: Terone Johnson
G: Ronnie Johnson
F: D.J. Byrd
F: Rapheal Davis
C: A.J. Hammons

Michigan State
G: Gary Harris (6-4, 205, Fr.)
G: Keith Appling (6-1, 190, Jr.)
C: Adreian Payne (6-10 240, Jr.)
F: Branden Dawson (6-6, 230, So.)
F: Derrick Nix (6-9, 270, Sr.)

Payne has been excellent lately, averaging better than 12 points and shooting 65 percent in the past eight games. … Appling leads Michigan State, averaging 14 points per game. … Harris is the Big Ten's leading freshman scorer, averaging 12.9 points. … Harris was born in West Lafayette; this will be his first game in the arena where his mother, the former Joy Holmes, was an All-American for Purdue's women's basketball team. … In the second halves of its two most recent wins, against Illinois and Minnesota, Michigan State shot a combined 76 percent. … Painter worries about Michigan State's ability to play huge with Nix and Payne side by side with Dawson at the 3, or to play small with Dawson playing the 4, costing the Spartans nothing in the rebounding column.

About Purdue: Roster | Schedule | Statistics

Michigan State: Roster | Schedule | Statistics

Broadcast Info
Game time: 7 p.m.
Radio: Purdue Sports Network (95.7 FM locally)
Internet: GoldandBlack.com subscribers can follow along live with our in-game blog, "Game Day Live."

Things to think about

1. Can Purdue match Michigan State's toughness without losing its cool?

2. Can the Boilermaker transition defense get back quickly enough and find shooters well enough to do away with all the transition threes that broke Purdue's back in East Lansing?

3. Can Hammons stay in the game? Again, when the freshman was on the floor at Michigan State, that was a pretty evenly played game?

4. How is Michigan State physically? The Spartans are dealing with quite a few injuries, all to their backcourt.

4. Can Purdue make a jump shot? The Boilermakers are coming off a game in which they made zero three-pointers. You can beat Penn State that way; you probably can't beat Michigan State that way. If Purdue's going to beat the Spartans, Byrd will almost certainly have to be a significant factor.

GoldandBlack.com Prediction: Purdue's played a couple of these home games now against highly ranked teams in lively Mackey Arena environments and they've gone well against Ohio State and Michigan State. It should be noted that Purdue did play the Spartans to a near-standstill in East Lansing when Hammons was on the floor, and Michigan State is banged up right now. But until Purdue shows it can keep its cool in games like this enough to have a credible chance to upset a better team, it's tough to expect it to happen.

Michigan State 73, Purdue 67

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