When No. 3 Purdue strolls into East Lansing, MI to take on the No. 4 Michigan State Basketball team, they will bring in one of, if not, the most complete team the Spartans have seen all season. Before Thursday night’s upset against Ohio State, the Boilermakers had not lost since losing back-to-back games on Nov. 22-23 against Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
For those two months in-between, they looked like a well oiled machine who were just a couple of big wins away from locking up a one seed. However, in their loss against the Buckeyes I noticed a trend that followed suit with their first two defeats earlier in the year.
Purdue struggles to rebound.
Surprisingly, Purdue is a middle of the pack rebounding team, and in average offensive boards per game they are dead last in the conference. With two seven-footers in senior Isaac Haas and freshman Matt Haarms, that should not happen.
Even more surprising is that Haas and Haarms aren’t the ones that stand out on the Boilermakers in rebounding. They do not even rank in the top 20 in the conference in rebounds per game. Senior forward Vince Edwards does the most work on the boards for Purdue standing at fifth in the Big Ten averaging 7.8 per game.
Nick Ward, Miles Bridges, and Jaren Jackson Jr. each follow. Ward stands at sixth in the conference with 7.5 rebounds per game, Bridges at eighth with 7.3 rebounds, and Jackson Jr. tied for fourteenth grabbing 6.2 boards per game.
Looking into Purdue’s season, all three of the Boilermakers’ losses coincided with some of their worst rebounding efforts in the season. Looking even closer, this trend has occurred throughout most of Purdue’s conference slate.
They have not won a game’s rebounding battle since their Jan. 13 matchup against Minnesota. To clarify, that is seven straight games they have been out-rebounded by their opponent.
Now, Michigan State has not been mighty giants in recent games themselves. Five games in twelve days will do that to you. However, looking at the big picture, they are one of the best rebounding teams in the conference.
“We haven’t been as good as we need to be on the offensive rebounds but this game we are definitely gonna try to be better with that,” said Bridges.
In the Big Ten, the Spartans rank in the top half, most of the time in the top two spots, in every rebounding category. In defensive rebounding efficiency, they are second in the conference. In offensive rebounding efficiency they are top dogs. They average the most defensive boards in the Big Ten and are sixth in offensive boards per game.
With Michigan State’s seven-footer Jackson Jr along with Bridges, Ward, and even a little of Kenny Goins, the Spartans have the bodies to provide problems to Purdue’s twin towers.
“We can definitely crash a lot offensively. Haas will get some because of his size but if we can figure out how to get the other guys to turn their heads we can definitely crash,” said Jackson Jr.
The lack of aggressiveness from Haas and Haarms on the boards is an opening for Michigan State. Controlling the glass both on the offensive and defensive glass could be the key to a Spartan victory.
“Yeah rebounding is going to be key against them,” said Michigan State forward Kenny Goins. “We are going to try to do that on both sides of the ball but with their size its gonna be tough. With their big guys (Haas and Haarms), they are not as mobile so keeping them outside of the paint, getting a body on them and rebounding on the outside of the perimeter is going to tough because of those guys flying in. It’s just gonna take body on body and just trying to throw people at them.”
Saturday afternoon’s matchup between Michigan State and Purdue could very well be decided on the glass. With Purdue’s struggles rebounding the ball, the Spartans have a great chance to take control of the game early and set a foundation for an upset win.