After some early struggles, No. 8 Michigan State appears to have hit its stride in Big Ten Conference play.
The surging Spartans (13-5, 5-0) take an eight-game winning streak into Sunday’s road matchup against Purdue.
A tougher stretch on the road awaits. After playing four of its first conference games at home, Michigan State will play three of its next four games on the road. After returning home to face Wisconsin following its trip to Purdue, Michigan State will play back-to-back road games at Indiana and Minnesota.
“It’s a good time to go on the road and see where we are,” Michigan state coach Tom Izzo said. “I still think five losses will win this league.”
Michigan State started the season 5-3 with nonconference losses to Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Duke before it started to click in December. MSU senior point guard Cassius Winston, dealing with the tragedy of his brother’s suicide when the season began in November, is back playing at a high level.
Winston had a 32-point outing in a win over Michigan last Sunday, then scored 27 points and dished out six assists on Wednesday night in Michigan State’s 74-58 win over Minnesota.
“I wasn’t forcing it as much and I was playing a little more free,” Winston said.
Winston is now at 1,702 career points, one of just 11 Michigan State players in school history to score more than 1,700 points in his career.
Michigan State and Purdue were co-champions of the Big Ten last season. While the Spartans have found themselves with a veteran-laden roster,
Purdue still searches for answers offensively. The Boilermakers rank 12th in the Big Ten in scoring offense (68.8 points per game), last in field-goal percentage (41.5) and eighth in 3-point field-goal percentage (33.2). Purdue has been held under 60 points in five of 16 games this season, including a 63-37 loss at Illinois.
Purdue (9-7, 2-3) is looking to bounce back at home after an 84-78 double-overtime loss at Michigan on Thursday night. Sophomore forward Trevion Williams scored a career-high 36 points and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds in the loss. Williams was the first Purdue player since Bob Ford (1971) to score more than 35 points and grab more than 20 rebounds in the same game.
“They played him one-on-one in the post, so we just kept trying to get the ball inside to him,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
Williams needed to step up with junior center Matt Haarms sidelined four minutes into the game with a hip injury. The status of the 7-foot-3 Haarms remains uncertain heading into Sunday’s game.
Ultimately, Purdue was unable to overcome 11 turnovers in the first half and 15 overall. The Boilermakers are looking for an offensive identity after losing Big Ten leading scorer Carsen Edwards and sharpshooter Ryan Cline from a team that reached the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight last season.
“We were lucky to only be down four points at halftime, because we weren’t very good,” Painter said. “We had 11 turnovers in the first half and our decision-making was really poor.”
–Field Level Media