Michigan State wrapped up the Big Ten regular-season title earlier this week, but it would like to go into next week’s conference tournament on a five-game winning streak.
It might be even more interested in some payback.
The eighth-ranked Spartans suffered their worst league loss in more than a year last month at Purdue, and they’ll look for some revenge Sunday when the No. 19 Boilermakers visit the Breslin Center in a possible Big Ten tournament title game preview.
Michigan State (24-5, 14-3) has been the conference’s best team all season and still has an outside shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride, though, as the Spartans suffered stunning home losses to Northwestern and Penn State, two teams that had never previously won in East Lansing.
Michigan State’s only true road loss came in West Lafayette on Feb. 17, when Purdue (22-8, 11-6) held the Spartans to a season-low 32.7 percent shooting in a 72-54 win.
It was Michigan State’s worst Big Ten loss since a 19-point defeat at Indiana on Feb. 16, 2008.
“This was a big-time atmosphere, and you’ve got to bring it,” coach Tom Izzo said. “Does Purdue deserve credit? Probably. Are we to blame? Probably.
“I don’t feel good about a performance like this in a big-time game.”
The win put the Boilermakers within a game of Michigan State in the Big Ten standings, but Izzo’s team wouldn’t let the race come down to Sunday’s regular-season finale. The Spartans have since won four straight to lock up the conference before Purdue’s visit, clinching the title outright with a 64-59 win at Indiana on Tuesday.
Izzo, however, was concerned the Spartans let the league-worst Hoosiers hang around.
“We struggled, we just didn’t have the energy tonight and maybe,” Izzo said, “I should understand that. But I don’t and maybe I will after I watch the film.”
Izzo may not have been impressed with his team’s effort, but while Michigan State won its most recent game, Purdue wasn’t as fortunate. The Boilermakers led visiting Northwestern by seven at halftime on Wednesday but lost 64-61.
That prompted some speculation that Purdue suffered a letdown with the Spartans having clinched the league one night earlier.
“I think you would have to ask each individual player that,” coach Matt Painter said. “They embarrassed us. We respect them. I thought we came out ready to play. They just outplayed us.”
With a win Sunday, the Boilermakers will earn the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament. A loss would move up Illinois and drop Purdue to No. 3, but a first-round bye awaits regardless.
Twenty-two turnovers - six from point guard Kalin Lucas - plagued the Spartans in their first meeting with the Boilermakers.
Lucas is among the Big Ten’s assists leaders at 4.6 per game and he’s also Michigan State’s leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points, but the Spartans are better off when he’s more of a distributor. They’re 8-0 when he has six assists or more.
One positive sign for Michigan State has been Raymar Morgan’s play in the last two games, scoring 14 points in each. Morgan, the team’s top scorer last season, has battled mononucleosis and had totaled 21 points in his previous eight games.
He’ll have a tough time getting into the paint against Purdue’s interior of sophomores Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson. Hummel, who missed five games dealing with a back injury, has averaged 17.5 points in two career meetings with Michigan State.
Purdue has lost its last eight trips to East Lansing.