On Saturday, Michigan State (16-10, 8-5 Big Ten) faces its toughest test of Big Ten play: a road game at Purdue (21-5, 10-3).
For starters, the Spartans have had their fair share of stumbles away from home, losing four of their last five. For all that’s gone right at the Breslin Center, Tom Izzo’s young team can’t seem to find its stride elsewhere.
Add to that an opponent playing at the top of its game. Purdue has won four straight games and vaulted to a three-way tie with Maryland and Wisconsin atop the conference standings.
Michigan State has only faced one of the three so far this season. Purdue came into East Lansing on Jan. 24 and handled the Spartans, 84-73. It won’t get any easier in West Lafayette, Ind.
With Maryland, Purdue and Wisconsin all waiting on Michigan State’s schedule, the Spartans will have ample chances to secure their bid to the NCAA Tournament. Saturday’s game shouldn’t qualify as a “must-win” in any sense, but it’s a huge opportunity.
Michigan State basketball vs. Purdue game time, details
Time: 4 p.m. ET
Date: Saturday, Feb. 18
Location: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.
Which TV channel broadcasts Michigan State basketball vs. Purdue?
The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
How can I watch Michigan State basketball vs. Purdue online?
How can I listen to Michigan State basketball vs. Purdue on the radio?
For Michigan State, the game can be heard on radio over the 38-affiliate Spartan Sports Network, including flagship stations WMMQ-FM (94.9)/WJIM-AM (1240) in Lansing and WJR-AM (760) in Detroit. It is also on Sirius 135/XM 195.
Who is calling the Michigan State basketball vs. Purdue game?
Dave Flemming will handle play-by-play for ESPN with Dan Dakich providing analysis. Will Tieman handles play-by-play with analyst Matt Steigenga on the Spartan Sports Network.
Michigan State basketball vs. Purdue 3 keys
Stay out of foul trouble
Michigan State can’t afford to lose big men early to foul trouble. It did so in the first meeting between these two teams, which left 6-foot-5 Matt Van Dyk to try to corral Purdue’s 7-foot-2 big man, Isaac Haas. As you might imagine, it didn’t go well. Forced to double-team, Michigan State gave up open looks from the perimeter, and the Boilermakers hit 11 of 21 shots from beyond the arc.
This isn’t your Purdue team of the past with a weak backcourt that neutralizes its talent down low. The Boilermakers have put it all together. Still, it starts in the post, where Haas and Wooden Award candidate Caleb Swanigan combine for 31.9 points and 18.3 rebounds per game. Michigan State freshmen Miles Bridges and Nick Ward will be relied upon to defend strongly while avoiding early fouls.
Manage Purdue’s runs
The last time Michigan State played away from home, Michigan smashed the Spartans 86-57. Outdone in every facet of the game, the Spartans particularly hurt themselves with 21 turnovers, most notably four shot clock violations. Michigan’s perimeter defense stifled them, and they did not adjust.
The Boilermakers have talent down low and shooters who can get hot. They’re bound to go on some considerable runs, especially at home. Michigan State needs to adapt to the ebbs and flows of the game, call timeouts when necessary and try to keep the crowd at bay. A lot of this falls on Izzo, who has the responsibility of managing a young team. It’s on him to ensure that when things start to go wrong, he doesn’t let it snowball.
Get Eron Harris going
It’s been a trying year for the senior guard, but in the last two games he’s played very solid defense. Now he has to put it together on the offensive end. Bridges needs someone to help him out as a second scorer, and with Harris’ propensity to move off the ball and around screens, he could tire out Purdue’s wings.
Harris has reached double figures in scoring just three times in 10 Big Ten games. Getting an offensive boost from him could put Michigan State in great position to pull the upset. But it will be awfully tough to take down this nightmare matchup regardless.