Preview: Michigan State hosts Purdue

After a wild weekend of upsets in the Big Ten, the Spartans emerged unscathed and feeling a bit fortunate after coming out with a big road win at Northwestern.

EAST LANSING - As #12 Michigan State (17-5, 5-3 Big Ten) hosts Purdue (8-13, 2-8 Big Ten) on Wednesday, there will approach the game with trepidation.

After a wild weekend of upsets in the Big Ten, the Spartans emerged unscathed and feeling a bit fortunate after coming out with a big road win at Northwestern.

In Champaign, Penn State knocked off #6 Illinois, in Iowa City, #23 Iowa smashed #21 Michigan by 30 points, and Purdue got a huge home win against Wisconsin.

"Anybody in this league can beat anybody and the weekend atoned for that," said Tom Izzo. "Most games are going down to the wire and there isn't an off night. We're going to have to be ready for every game and some have more meaning than others, but they all count in the standings."

The Spartans will look to avoid falling victim to an upset minded Boilermaker team and losing an all-important home game in the Big Ten.

"We've got to make sure we take care of business at home," said Izzo.

The Boilermaker roster shows five players averaging in double-figures, but only two (Matt Kiefer and Marcus White) are active. Carl Landry and Nate Minnoy are out with knee injuries and Korey Spates has been dismissed from the team.

Coach Matt Painter has done a great job in keeping his team focused and playing well under hard times. Matt Kiefer leads the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game and Marcus White adds in 11.4 points a game.

"What seems strange is to look over and see a guy that I once recruited. Matt comes from good pedigree, he worked for Gene (Keady) and Bruce (Webber). I appreciate what he's up against and the job he's done there," said Izzo.

Spartan guard Drew Neitzel has stepped up his game over the last few contests. He has raised his scoring average to nearly double-figures (9.1 ppg) and he is also a major reason why Michigan State leads the Big Ten in assists per game.

"Experience triggers things and it leads to confidence and he (Neitzel) is more under control right now," said Izzo. "I think he's doing a better job defensively and I think he's really starting to come into his own."

Neitzel has a trio of great scorers in front of him to make his job much easier. Maurice Ager, Paul Davis, and Shannon Brown all average over 18 points per game.

One major concern for the Spartans recently has been their tendency to get into foul trouble, which brings up the question; Can you play good defense without fouling?

"We have been in foul trouble in every game; it has been bizarre," said Izzo. "We are going to adjust to whatever we have to adjust to. We're going to have to play good defense without fouling to win and keep our starters out there," he added.

What concerns Izzo even more is the fact that with different officials come different foul calls, specifically mentioning the amount of "hand-check" fouls that are being called.

Big guys Matt Trannon and Marquise Gray are having difficulty staying out of foul trouble, which forces Izzo to go deeper into his bench with guys like Goran Suton and Idong Ibok; both players are in need of improvement.

Wednesday game will feature the two-worst teams in scoring defense. Purdue is dead-last, allowing 71 points per game to their opponents. Michigan State allows 69.9 points per game to their opponents.

The Spartans' explosive offense will look to run all over the Boilermaker defense and shut them down offensively.

They need to stay away from dangerous territory in joining the class with Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan in losing important conference games.

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