Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan
When: 7:00pm EST, Jan. 8, 2021
TV/Radio: FS1/Spartan Sports Network radio
Purdue (7-5, 2-3): No. 38 (Kenpom)
1 - Eric Hunter Jr. (6’4” jr), Isiah Thompson (6’1” so)
2 - Sasha Stefanovic (6’5” sr), Jaden Ivey (6’6” fr)
3 - Brandon Newman (6’5” fr), Ethan Morton (6’6” fr)
4 - Mason Gillis (6’6” fr), Aaron Wheeler (6’9” jr)
5 - Trevion Williams (6’10” jr), Zach Edey (7’4” fr)
Purdue is a level-up in complexity of the challenge compared to Rutgers. The Boilermakers run more stuff (Matt Painter’s typically well-run and dynamic offense is still there even with a more “basic” roster) than Rutgers, and they have far bigger match-up challenges. Literally.
Williams and Edey at the center will really cause the Spartan centers problems on both end — both can be impactful defenders, they are two of the best low-post scorers in the league, and both draw fouls at extremely high rates — oh, and they are gigantic. But both players can get into foul trouble and can be exposed by movement from their covers (to the degree that Purdue will play zone or a kind of heavy-switching match-up zone at times). When those two yo-yo back-and-forth at the center providing anchoring play on both ends, and stay out of foul-trouble, then Purdue can hang with any team.
Hunter Jr., now healthy after missing the first five games of Purdue’s season, has really steadied the team with his heady guard play and solid point-of-attack defense. Stefanovic and Newman have provided superb wing play; knocking down shots, taking care of the ball, and attacking closeouts with aplomb.
Finally, Gillis (a terrific competitor and older-than-his-years approach to the game), Ivey (a future NBA player), Morton, and Thompson provide a solid bench group that can make plays, score, and provide solid toughness and athleticism. But outside of Edey, Stefanovic, and Williams (who is afraid to get to the free-throw line), this team does not effectively attack the paint. This makes them a jump-shooting team, and should not surprise viewers because Edey and Williams draw so much attention and clog the paint so significantly.
Purdue wants you to over-help to the paint, lose cutters on the perimeter, and make mistakes during its slow-as-slugs half-court offensive possessions. The Boilermakers pass well on offense, but allow teams to pass well and take a ton of three-point shots. Again, this is simply because in a lot of ways, Purdue plays defense and offense in four-on-four games and one-on-one games — with the Boilermakers’ centers largely doing their own thing and dictating play by their involvement or absence on offense and defense.
Trevion Williams is big, talented, and savvy. He is Purdue’s best assist man, and best passer, and he will score or deal on you from the post. If he is on the court, he is getting the ball and dictating the offense. He will likely get his, but making him inefficient, and running him as much as possible — getting out in transition, moving him out of the paint on defense —can get him in foul trouble and off the court.
Sasha Stefanovic is the danger man from beyond the arc. While Hunter Jr., Newman, and Thompson can all shoot the ball, Stefanovic is the high-volume three-point shooter, and the real danger man. He has become a far more complete player later in his career, so he will attack close-outs, and he will get to the line. Aaron Henry likely gets this task to start out.
Zach Edey is a mountain. He is a great free-throw shooter, a great offensive player when attacking the basket, but, fortunately, also very much still a freshman. He turns it over plenty, and he will be in foul trouble about as soon as he walks in the gym. He does not have the movement skills to play much on defense, and making him move (stretch-fives give him problems) is a recipe for his downfall.
Eric Hunter Jr. still has not found the range from three-point range, but this guy is the co-engine of the team beyond Williams. If Hunter struggles the odds are high that Purdue will lose — if Josh Langford can hang with Stefanovic, do not be surprised to see Henry at the point of attack.
Brandon Newman is still a freshman, but man is he good. He can be pressured, he can be inconsistent, and he can also have a big outing with a number of made three-point shots. Keep a lid on him and you cut the oxygen from the major players.
Find a way to deal with the Purdue bigs: is it one-on-one magical defending from Thomas Kithier and Joey Hauser? Is it summoning something special from freshman Mady Sissoko sophomore Julius Marble, or junior Marcus Bingham Jr? Is it running them out of the gym by playing smaller better-shooting lineups that simply play them off the court? Is it savvy play inside the paint that gets them in foul trouble? Double teaming off the first or second dribble? Hard digs?
Some way or another these two have to be limited. Beyond them, keeping Purdue’s shooters under pressure on the catch and contesting intelligently will prove the difference.
Offensively, the Spartans should not have a high turnover game, nor will they get many second chance points. So ball-movement, drilling open shots, and pushing the pace off of forced turnovers will prove essential. If the Spartans fail to hit enough jump shots, then this will be a long and painful game.
MSU hits its shots, Purdue on the road never gets off the struggle bus, and Mady and Marcus play their games of the season (so far).
MSU 75 Purdue 68
Don’t miss Coach Izzo, Joshua Langford, and Malik Hall’s comments yesterday during the team’s media availability.