With three freshmen and two sophomores starting, Purdue (10-4, 1-0 Big Ten) features a young and inexperienced team that Tom Izzo says can be good and bad in games.
"There's good news and bad news about playing a lot of freshmen, the good news is when they get excited and they get going, their energy level supersedes the veteran who knows not to get too high or too low, but when they get down you go the other way and that's why there are ups and downs with playing freshman," said Izzo.
The Boilermakers won their Big Ten opener 65-58 against Michigan on Saturday behind 17 points from sophomore Keaton Grant, who went 5-of-6 from three-point range.
Freshman Scott Martin comes off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 11 points per game. Grant scores 10.3 points per game and freshman Robbie Hummel scores 10.1 points per game.
"They have about seven guys that take three's, they have 6-foot-8 guys that are handling the ball, Hummel is leading them in rebounding and assists, and that's a bizarre combination, they are a different team and sometimes a harder team to matchup against," said Izzo.
Overall, coach Matt Painter's Boilermakers feature only one senior on their roster, guard Tarrance Crump.
In the last meeting between the two teams, Purdue routed the Spartans in West Lafayette 62-38 behind 20 points each from seniors Carl Landry and David Teague.
Now without their two veteran leaders, the Boilermakers rely on a young lineup which has had its highs and lows in their non-conference schedule.
Their high coming on Dec. 15 when they upset then No.20 Louisville 67-59 behind Hummel's 15 points while denying Cardinals' coach Rick Pitino his 500th career win.
Their low came just four days later when they lost to 4-4 Wofford at home, 69-66. Wofford's Shane Nichols won the game on a layup with 2.1 seconds left and the game tied. They added a free-throw and knocked off the Boilermakers.
"They are on a bit of a high right now since they won their Big Ten opener," said Izzo. "They play extremely good defense, causing turnovers is one thing that they do well, they have interchangeable parts, they went to a 5-guard system in their last game so that can cause problems, so they are a bit unconventional."
Turnovers is one thing has been a problem for Michigan State teams in the last few years and was a big reason why the Spartans allowed Minnesota to creep back into the game on Saturday after being down by 13.
MSU turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and 19 total in the game, which is also their game average for the season. MSU has a minus six turnover margin this season and it would be one thing that Izzo would point to that is keeping their opponents close in games.
Chris Allen Suffers Setback
In his weekly Monday press conference, Izzo revealed the status of freshman guard Chris Allen, who has been slowly making his way back from a bone bruise in his lower leg.
Allen played six minutes last week against Wisconsin Green-Bay and only four minutes this against Minnesota.
"The Chris Allen report is not good, but it's not necessarily bad either," said Izzo. "Medically he is good to go but it's just a pain tolerance right now. Unlike a broken bone, this goes more on swelling and a pain threshold and we just decided that it's not getting better enough and so he will not play tomorrow."
"I think he is a valuable part of this team and the more time you miss in the middle of the season you might need two weeks to get back to playing," added Izzo.
Allen originally injured the leg on Dec. 4 against Bradley and missed the next three games. He is averaging 6.3 points this season.
No worry on Neitzel
After going 2-for-11 from the field and only four points in the Big Ten opener, Izzo is not worried about Drew Neitzel, but rather believes that it opens up scoring opportunities for Raymar Morgan, Kalin Lucas and other Spartans.
Although Neitzel got his share of open looks against the Gophers, they didn't go in for him.
"I've been spoiled like everybody else when I see him get four or five opens shots I see them going in, but still he is shooting a high percentage," said Izzo. "Teams are putting more emphasis on him and we need to make sure he's consistently getting shots, but he can't go eight or nine minutes without getting a shot because there's something wrong."
"I came in on Saturday morning and there he was shooting baskets, I know at 9:30am this morning he's in watching film, I have absolutely no worry about where Drew will be," added Izzo.
No.6 Michigan State (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten) tips off with Purdue at 9pm EST on the Big Ten Network
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