Date: Saturday, February 19 – Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, IN (14,123)
Time: Noon (ESPN Plus Regional)
GAME NOTES: Purdue (7-15, 3-8 Big Ten) is suffering through one of the worst seasons in school history. The lone bright spot for the Boilermakers has been the play of JUCO transfer Carl Landry, who leads the conference in scoring, while hitting on double figures in points in 21-of-22 games this season.
Michigan State (18-4, 9-2 Big Ten) is playing their best basketball of the season right now and are currently averaging 79.0 points-per-game, while allowing just 62.8 per-game for their opponents. They are also shooting a combined .495 from the field (608-1,228) and .807 from the free-throw line (368-456) and out-rebounding their opponents by 7.9 boards-per-contest (39.9 to 28.0).
The Spartans look to win their 16th game in their last 18 outings at the expense of the Boilermakers Saturday.
Forward: Michigan State's Alan Anderson (6'6" 220) versus Purdue's Carl Landry (6'7" 239)
Anderson has played tremendous post defense in the last few games and will likely be the primary stopper assigned to Landry, the Big Ten's leading scorer (19.5 ppg). Landry has a .624 FG percentage and is averaging 7.4 rebounds-per-game to boot. He poured in 31 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the two teams last meeting in East Lansing back on January 19th. Despite that effort, the Spartans prevailed, 71-64.
If Anderson cannot contain Landry alone, expect Tom Izzo to call on Matt Trannon (6'6" 217), Drew Naymick (610" 245) and Delco Rowley (6'8" 253) off the bench, as well double down with plenty of help from the guards and center Paul Davis.
Ager is the Spartans' leading scorer (13.8 ppg) and has been a steady force for Michigan State all season. Teague is the Boilermakers' second leading scorer (14.0 ppg) and rebounder (5.3 rpg). He has shot .423 (60-142) from the field and .377 (26-69) from downtown in Big Ten play after returning to the lineup Nov. 27 after a hiatus due to a broken hand.
Ager scored a season-high 22 points in the game against Purdue back on Jan. 18, while Teague scored 13 in that same game. Expect the Spartans to cover Teague with a variety of combinations including the much bulkier Kelvin Torbert (6'4" 218).
Neitzel has done a solid job at point guard since moving into the starting lineup back on Jan. 5 versus Iowa. He will face a tough test in trying to contain the veteran McKnight, who leads Purdue in both assists (83) and steals (30).
If Neitzel can once again hold his own as the Spartans' quarterback, it will allow Chris Hill to once again come off the bench and concentrate on scoring. Purdue has been terrible this season in defending the perimeter – allowing opponents to hit nearly 40 percent (.397) of their shots from behind-the-arc.
BOILERMAKERS TO WATCH: Center/Forward Matt Kiefer (6'10" 237)
Keifer, a junior, has been a pleasant surprise (along with Landry) in an otherwise dismal season for the Boilermakers. He is averaging 9.9 points and 5.0 rebounds this season, including a game-high 21 points and 8 rebounds against Michigan (Jan. 30.) and a game-high 17 points and 6 rebounds against top-ranked Illinois on (Jan. 8).
KEYS TO VICTORY:
PURDUE: Slow down the game to prevent the Spartans from running and to keep Teague and McKnight fresh; as both players logged 40, and 38, minutes respectively in a 66-63 win Wednesday night versus Iowa. Team that formula with another strong performance by Landry and a raucous home crowd behind the underdog Boilermakers and their retiring coach Gene Keady and it could be much more than just another day at the office for Tom Izzo's troops.
MICHIGAN STATE: Contain Landry as well as possible, rebound the basketball, and run, run, run. Landry, Teague and McKnight are all averaging at least 31.6 minutes-per-game this season and will tire quickly if they have to spend a lot of time chasing the high-flying Michigan State trio of Ager, Anderson, and Shannon Brown.
Just like Wednesday night against the undermanned Minnesota Golden Gophers – if the Spartans can rebound and play solid half court defense – they will get into transition early and often and this game could be over by halftime.
PREDICTION: Michigan State is too deep and too talented for one of least formidable squads of the Gene Keady era.
FINAL: Michigan State 83, Purdue 60