(13) Michigan State (21-5) at Purdue (15-10)

The Sports NetworkFebruary 20, 2014 

GAME NOTES: Big Ten Conference rivals collide at Mackey Arena on Thursday night, as the 13th-ranked Michigan State Spartans come calling on the Purdue Boilermakers.

While still considered one of the favorites to win the conference crown, Michigan State has shown itself to be mortal in recent weeks as it has lost four of its last seven games, the most recent being a shocking 60-51 home defeat to Nebraska. As a result, the Spartans enter tonight's fray at 21-5 overall and 10-3 in conference, which is good for a first-place tie with Michigan. The Wolverine State rivals will meet in Ann Arbor this Sunday.

As for Purdue, it has won two of its last three games to improve to 15-10 on the season, although it still sits two games below .500 in conference play (5-7). The Boilermakers, who notched an 82-64 win over in-state rival Indiana the last time out, should play with confidence tonight as they are 12-2 at home this season.

This is the only scheduled meeting between these two teams this season, and Purdue holds a 65-50 lead in the all-time series. The Spartans, however, have won the last five meetings. The Boilermakers are 28-13 in the series at Mackey Arena, but haven't won there since Jan. 22, 2011 (88-76).

Poor shooting did the Spartans in this past Sunday against visiting Nebraska, as they connected on only 34 percent of their field goal attempts, which included a horrid 5-of-24 showing from 3-point range. Gary Harris did his best to get his team over the hump, tallying 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Adreian Payne was the only other player to reach double figures for MSU, as he nearly logged a double-double with his 11 points and nine boards. The team's defensive effort was on point, as the Cornhuskers made good on only 35.8 percent of their total shots, although they did nail nine treys, albeit on 30 attempts.

Harris continues to pace the team in scoring with his 17.4 ppg, although Payne (16.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Keith Appling (14.4 ppg, 4.7 apg) are hot on his heels. The team as a whole is generating 76.9 ppg in hitting 46.7 percent of its field goal attempts, which encompasses its 37.9 percent effort from beyond the arc, while on defense limiting the opposition to 64.8 ppg and typical shooting performances of only .388 overall and .319 from beyond the arc. Factor in favorable margins in both rebounds (+4.8) and turnovers (+1.9), and it's not hard to see why the team has enjoyed as much as success as it has.

In Purdue's recent win over Indiana, Sterling Carter drained five treys en route to a team-high 19 points, and he was joined in double figures by Ronnie Johnson and Terone Johnson, with 16 and 14 points, respectively. The Boilermakers found the bottom of the net on 48.1 percent of their field goal attempts, which included a stellar 10-of-18 showing from long distance. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers made good on only 32.2 percent of their total shots, while being outscored both in the paint (24-16) and in bench points (24-11).

Terone (12.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and Ronnie Johnson (10.7 ppg, 3.6 apg) rank one-two on PU's season scoring chart, while A.J. Hammons tacks on 10.6 ppg and serves as the team's leading rebounder (7.4 rpg) as well as one of the top shot blockers in the country (74 swats). Collectively, the Boilermakers are putting up 73.1 ppg while permitting 70.0 ppg, and they too are in the black with regard to rebound (+3.8) and turnover (+0.4) differential.

While Purdue is sure to put forth maximum effort in an attempt to defend its home floor once again, the Spartans need to build up some momentum as they try to maintain their place atop the Big Ten standings.

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