For the Michigan State Spartans, Tuesday night's game with Purdue may be their biggest of the season thus far. This is a match up of the two teams that everyone predicted would be the class of the Big Ten.
The Boilermakers have run into some misfortune with the injury to Robbie Hummel and losses to Ohio State and Illinois without him. He returned to the lineup this past weekend in Purdue's win against Iowa.
The Boilermakers have been swept this season by Illinois, but with Hummel in the lineup, Purdue is the second most talented team in the conference.
"He (Hummel) brings so much to that team," senior Travis Walton said. "You can't even say what he brings, if it's hustle, if it's just that comfortableness knowing that he's on the court with them."
This is one of the two toughest games that the Spartans have left on the schedule. The other is a road date against Illinois. Going down to West Lafayette will be an arduous task because the Boilermakers and their fans will look at this game as possibly a turning point in their season.
The fact that the Spartans are first in the conference and carry a top five ranking will make the game on Tuesday an even bigger event.
"We know it's a big game. It's probably one of the biggest games of the season," Walton said. "It's gonna be a showdown. We know what they did to us last year when we went down there."
Last season, the Boilermakers won the contest in West Lafayette by a score of 60-54, and the year prior, the Spartans lost 62-38 at Purdue. The Green & White are coming off of a big win at Michigan and an entire week of rest. The team feels confident that the much needed time off will benefit them greatly.
"We get our break at the end of the season, some teams got theirs at the beginning of the season," Walton said. "We got ours at the right time. All we can do is blossom from this."
Other than Hummel, Purdue has a few other players that are capable of leading the team on any given night.
Sophomore E'Twaun Moore is the team's leading scorer and can score in a variety of ways. Travis Walton called him simply "a player." That is an accurate description. He averages 4.8 rebounds to go along with 13.6 points per game.
The most improved Boilermaker may be JaJuan Johnson. The slim sophomore forward is a menace inside. He is putting up 13.4 points a night, along with 6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. He has been playing extremely well lately while averaging over 18 points and seven rebounds in his last four games.
"You got to push him away from the basket," senior center Goran Suton said. ‘He's a long, tall, lanky kid. He's a good player, he's improved a lot over the last year."
MORGAN READY TO PLAY
Raymar Morgan's health has been a cause for concern for nearly a month, but he is improving and he will play against the Boilermakers.
"That's the plan," Morgan said. "I'll be ready if coach needs me for one minute or 20."
Morgan mentioned that he could have played against Michigan if Coach Izzo needed him to go, but now there is no question whether he will play or not.
With the extended amount of time that he had off, questions about conditioning and rust come into play. That is of some concern to Morgan, who has lost 10 pounds, but he feels that it is coming back relatively quickly.
"It's a little bit of rust, I wouldn't say a lot," Morgan said. "It's just timing. Just getting back and getting a feel for my teammates and what they like to do."
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