EAST LANSING, Mich. – Well, Purdue just had its worst offensive performance since the second half against Miami, when it let a 20-point lead get away.
The Boilers played a decent defensive first half against a resurgent Michigan State team tonight, holding the Spartans to 31 points. Importantly, after MSU destroyed Rutgers on the glass, Purdue held its own in that department, limiting the Spartans to just three offensive rebounds and two second-chance points. On the other end, however, Purdue has struggled to score from anywhere except the deep post. The result is a 31-16 Spartans lead at halftime.
As expected, Purdue has had an advantage down low against a somewhat undersized Michigan State team. Trevion Williams and Zach Edey have both been able to get deep post position and score in the lane, or at least moreso than Purdue's perimeter players have been able to score. The Spartans have been as good as anyone the Boilermakers have seen this season at perimeter defense. Michigan State is a wall at the 3-point line and Purdue ball-handlers on the outside have found very few lanes to get to the rim. That wouldn't be such a big problem, but the Boilermakers are also a shocking 0 for 12 from beyond the arc, so they aren't getting hardly anything from their guards right now. Starting backcourt players Eric Hunter Jr. and Brandon Newman have two points on 0 for 4 from the field. At halftime, the Boilermakers are shooting an abysmal 26% from the field, not nearly good enough.
Hunter in particular needs to be better for Purdue to have a chance. The junior guard is one of the Boilermakers' most dynamic players, but he has had two 2 1/2 poor performances in a row and Purdue needs more from him. He's one of the veterans on this team and if the Boilers can't count on him consistently, they're going to have games where they get precious little on offense. Not helping the offensive performance either was Williams picking up two fouls, both on the offensive end. The only bright spot for Purdue on that end has been freshman Jaden Ivey, who scored three straight baskets late in the half to snap a 7:38 streak without a field goal for the Boilermakers.
The Boilermakers could quickly get back in the game if they started to make some shots from the outside in the second half. Of course, you can't count on that if you're Purdue, but this is a team with good shooters. Presumably, they won't be ice-cold all night, even against a defense as good as Michigan State's. Some shots falling should open the floor up considerably. Purdue also needs to be better cutting and screening away from the ball. Michigan State is getting up and guarding Purdue on the perimeter and that calls for some back-door cuts. This isn't a totally insurmountable deficit for Purdue, but it was not a good first half.