Spartans, formidable Boilermakers square off

The Spartans (9-5 overall, 1-1 Big Ten), coming off an 18-turnover performance in their 68-64 loss to Iowa on Saturday, will face a Boilermaker defense that is No. 1 in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +5.17 per game and has yet to lose a game at home this season.

(East Lansing) – The MSU basketball team will have to learn to take care of the ball, if they expect a victory over Purdue on Tuesday.

The Spartans (9-5 overall, 1-1 Big Ten), coming off an 18-turnover performance in their 68-64 loss to Iowa on Saturday, will face a Boilermaker defense that is No. 1 in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +5.17 per game and has yet to lose a game at home this season.

Purdue (9-3, 1-0), who is a perfect 8-0 at Mackey Arena, turned Northwestern’s 16 turnovers into 31 points and cruised to a 82-68 win in its Big Ten opener on Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind.

MSU head coach Tom Izzo knows that his team will have to be mentally sharp against this aggressive defense.

"They’ll put as much pressure on us as the Oklahomas’ or the Oklahoma States’, those kinds of teams," Izzo said during his Monday press conference. "They do a very good job taking away passing lanes and that does create some concerns."

Izzo said the way to neutralize their defense is to be effective in the paint, something the Spartans have had trouble doing lately.

"Hopefully we can take advantage of that," he said. "We did not do a very good job getting the ball inside at Iowa, some due to guards, some due to our inside guys kind of hiding and some due to when we do throw it in there.

"Our big guys have to play better, they have to post harder. Those guys got to want the ball; they have to post to get the ball."

The Spartans will have their hands full against the league’s fifth leading scorer, Willie Deane.

The 6-foot-1 guard is averaging 16.8 points per game and is coming off a season-high 23 points against Northwestern. The talented guard has scored in double digits in all 12 of Purdue’s games this year, 19 straight going back to last season.

Izzo said his play is very comparable to Ohio State guard Brent Darby, but feels Deane is a little more elusive and quick.

"I think Willie’s a little more athletic. Darby’s a little stronger. I think Willie can get to the hole a little bit better, so he has both an outside and take it-to-the-hole mentality," he said.

Purdue’s other offense weapon is guard Kenneth Lowe. Lowe is second on the team in scoring at 12.2 ppg and is the league’s best free-throw shooter, making nearly 93 percent of his shots from the charity stripe.

6-10 forward Chris Booker provides muscle in the post, averaging 9.8 ppg and 5.8 rebounds per game.

But Izzo said the biggest player maybe the backup point guard, Austin Parkinson.

"They have a kid playing the point that’s just running their team. He’s not a great shooter, doesn’t look to shoot much, more of your consummate point guard," he said.

Parkinson, a starter last season, plays just 12 minutes a game, but when he’s in there he makes a big difference. The 6-foot guard has best turnover-to-assist ration in the Big Ten at 3.88 to 1.

With all that production on the offensive side, the Boilermakers compliment it with tough defense, a staple of Gene Keady basketball.

Last year, Purdue finished 13-18 overall and 5-11 in the Big Ten, but this season the team has really turned it around. Purdue has returned to its familiar style of play and its something Izzo credits to Keady.

"Here’s a guy that plays 11 guys a lot and they do a pretty good job," Izzo said. "I really enjoy his resurgence because I think a lot of people wrote them off last year. A lot people feared he forget how to coach, and really what he’s done is gone back to the basics.

"They have some good offensive players, but their team is 9-3 because they’re so much better defensively then they were a year ago and that’s the strength of their team, their defense."

Purdue, like the Spartans, have 11 guys who average more than 10 minutes per game.

Besides cutting down on turnovers making their free throws, Izzo said his inside players must be able to kick it out to the open guys on the perimeter. He said the inside-out game has been non-existence, but if the team opens it up, they should get more production from leading scorer, sophomore guard Chris Hill.

"I think that is one of the areas that I think we’ve done the poorest on job on and I think he would be the one most affected by that," Izzo said. "When it’s inside-out he doesn’t miss many shots."

Hill, the only Spartan averaging in double figures, 15.3 points per game, knocked down 6-of-11 from behind the arc in the loss to Iowa.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.   

Other game notes

Izzo’s not sure if freshman center Paul Davis will be in the starting lineup on Tuesday, but he does expect him to play the same minutes he has so far. As for possible replacements freshman Erazem Lorbek and senior Adam Ballinger we’re mentioned.

Freshman Maurice Ager continues to impress, the sophomore is averaging 14.5 points per game in Big Ten play and will still play about 20 minutes a game until he is back in shaped. Ager is coming off a fainting spell that has limited his conditioning. Izzo expects him to gradually get better.

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