On Thursday against No. 19 Michigan, Purdue gutted its way through two overtime periods before finally falling 84-78.
As a reward for playing 50 minutes of physical basketball against the Wolverines, the Boilermakers get a home game with Big Ten leader Michigan State just three days later.
Such is life in the Big Ten.
Today's matchup between Purdue (9-7, 2-3 Big Ten) and the eighth-ranked Spartans, the conference's only remaining unbeaten in league play, will feature the teams that shared the Big Ten regular-season title last season.
Michigan State (13-3, 5-0) was ranked No. 1 in the preseason and comes in off eight straight wins since a loss to Duke.
“I think they've been the gold standard (in the Big Ten),” Purdue coach Matt Painter said of the Spartans. “If you wanna go on toughness, they're the gold standard. If you want to go on winning, they're the gold standard. If you want to go on transition offense or offensive rebounds, they're the gold standard. ... They've been the most successful program and that's who each team in our league gauges themselves on.”
Michigan State is led by reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston, who is second in the conference in scoring at 19.4 points per game and fourth in assists with 6.3 per contest. The 6-foot-1 senior guard is the driving force behind an offense that moves the ball at an elite level, ranking second nationally with 19.8 helpers per contest.
Winston has scored 20 points in five straight games and has averaged 29.5 in the Spartans' two games this week.
“You've just gotta make it hard on him,” Painter said of containing Winston. “You've gotta try your best to bottle him up, not let him get to the paint, not let him get angles. The thing with him is once he starts making some shots, he can take over the game by scoring and he can take over the game by passing.”
Michigan State is far from a one-man show, however. Winston has plenty of help from junior forward Xavier Tillman, who averages a double-double with 14.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He's helped the Spartans rank second in the nation in average rebound margin at plus-11.
Purdue is one of the few teams that has the size to deal with the Spartans on the glass. Sophomore Trevion Williams is coming off a 20-rebound game against Michigan, while 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms gets to plenty of boards others wouldn't reach.
Haarms missed the second half and overtimes against the Wolverines after his hip “just decided it didn't want to move anymore”, as he put it. He's recovered over the last few days, spending hours in the training room working on the joint, and he expects to play against the Spartans, even if he isn't 100%.
“(Even) if I have to play through it a little bit, it's a big game tomorrow and I want to be out there,” Haarms said. “It's important to me to be out there.”
Having Haarms available will give the Boilers the ability to play the two-big lineup that has proven so effective in short spurts recently. Williams and Haarms are slowly adjusting to playing together and when they're on the court the Big Ten's slew of talented big men, such as Tillman, are not quite as intimidating.
“For us, we've gotta be physical and we've gotta be physical without fouling,” Painter said of dealing with the Spartans' size.
vs. Michigan State
When: 12 p.m. today
Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette
Records: Purdue (9-7, 2-3 Big Ten), No. 8 Michigan State (13-3, 5-0)
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM