FORT WAYNE – Purdue had just pulled off an upset against No. 11 Illinois, but they already had an eye on the next opponent – Michigan State.
It’s a great win right now and we’ll celebrate it right now, Purdue senior guard/forward D.J. Byrd said shortly after Wednesday’s 68-61 win over the Illini, but in the morning we’ve got to wake up knowing Michigan State is a great team and going into there is really tough. They have a packed house every night. It will be a challenge for us.
The Boilermakers (7-6, 1-0 Big Ten) go on the road to face the No. 18 Spartans (11-3, 0-1) today. Purdue has won three straight to get over .500 for the first time this season.
The last three games we’ve done a better job of taking care of the basketball, Purdue coach Matt Painter said during a teleconference Friday. Purdue is averaging just nine turnovers in the last three games. Especially the last game, we play harder, we had more of a fight to us. That’s going to be important to build on that and just do a better job of competing.
We competed against Illinois. But this is a tough league and we have a tough opponent. Being able to bounce back after success for a young team and to be able to go on the road and play just as hard and play just as smart, that’s easier said than done.
Purdue outrebounded the Illini 45-35. Purdue is fifth in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (plus-8.7) and second in the conference in offensive rebounding. The Spartans rank fourth in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (plus-9). Derrick Nix is tied for third in the conference in rebounding (7.5 per game), and Adreian Payne is sixth (7.4) in the same category.
You look at your rebounding totals and we’ve done a better job than we’ve done in the past, but it’s all relative, Painter said. Have we had success rebounding the ball against somebody like UConn or Michigan State, people that traditionally lead the nation in rebounding? We have not. But we also haven’t faced somebody like that that’s dominant on the glass.
This is a huge test for us.