Purdue, Edwards seek statement win at No. 6 Michigan State
While Michigan State is unbeaten in Big Ten play and is staking its claim as the best team in the conference, arguably the best player is coming to town with designs on knocking the Spartans down a peg.
That's what No. 6 Michigan State is focusing on heading into Tuesday's 9 p.m. tip at the Breslin Center -- finding a way to slow Purdue's Carsen Edwards, who is leading the Big Ten in scoring at 25.5 points per game.
"We're not gonna stop him," Spartans head coach Tom Izzo recently told the media. "I think two teams have held him under 20 (points). As they say, we gotta contain him and make him earn every shot, make him work for everything, and hopefully he won't shoot as high a percentage."
Izzo was on the money with his numbers as Edwards scored only 19 against Robert Morris and 19 at Michigan on Dec. 1. In each of those games, the opponent was able to do exactly what Izzo is aiming for -- limiting Edwards' good looks and making it difficult for him to score. The junior guard shot just 5 of 17 against Robert Morris and was 7-for-21 in the loss to the Wolverines.
"He's a serious threat just how he can score, get to the basket, shoot threes," Michigan State guard Cassius Winston said. "He's just an offensive threat. He's gonna get a lot of different looks, some bigger guys maybe, just a whole bunch of different looks and we gotta do our best to contain him and not let him roam free on the court, force him into tough situations, force him to make tough shots every time."
The Spartans (13-2, 4-0 Big Ten) have been effective most of the season at forcing teams to take tough shots. Entering Tuesday's game, Michigan State has the best field-goal percentage defense in the Big Ten, allowing opponents to shoot 37.1 percent -- a number that also ranks in the top 10 in the nation.
That said, Izzo and company understand the unique challenge that Edwards brings as the conference's top scorer at 25.5 points a game.
"Carsen Edwards has taken his game from good to great last year and he's taken it from great to elite this year," Izzo said. "To average 25.5 this day and age in a major college is not the norm. He leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting. ... He's quick, he's strong, he can get his shot up. He looks like a linebacker or a free safety and plays like one except with a lot of grace and skill.
"I've been really impressed by what this kid has done."
For the Boilermakers (9-5, 2-1) the plan will be to try and get their first true road win this season. That's easier said than done in an arena where Purdue has won just once in nearly eight years.
Purdue coach Matt Painter is eager to see where his team, winner of three straight, stacks up against one of the conference favorites.
"Just being able to handle the environment, handle their defensive pressure and their physical play more than anything," Painter recently said. "Just being able to embrace the physicality of the game without fouling. You've got to be in position. If you're not in position to play and they're more physical than you, you're gonna get behind plays and you're gonna foul. ... You've got to put yourself in good position.
"And then not giving in if you get in a bad patch of the game and you're shooting the ball quick, taking quick shots."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 7, 2019