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A first look: Michigan State

A two-game losing streak can qualify as reeling for Michigan State.

Especially considering the Spartans (19-5, 9-2) seemed to be running away with the Big Ten after a 9-0 start.

Instead, the race is heating up. Four teams have three losses in the league, and Purdue (19-3, 7-3) has a chance to move into a tie for first place by beating Michigan State Tuesday in East Lansing.

But it will be a challenge -- even if the Spartans are without starting guard Kalin Lucas (15.6 ppg, 4.0 apg).

Michigan State is second in the country in rebounding margin and also thrives on pushing the ball on the fast break. Purdue has to find a way to crash the boards but still not get beat in transition.

"It's easier said than done," coach Matt Painter said. "But that's the game. If they dominate you on the glass and get out in transition, you're going to get beat by 30 points. If you can hold serve and battle them on the glass and be even or beat them and get back, you give yourself a chance to beat them."

  • For more on the Spartans, check out the blog in the Detroit Free Press.
  • Painter said without Lucas (sprained ankle), Michigan State doesn't have "great depth in their backcourt. That's something they've always had at that position. That could be a factor for them depending on the health of Kalin Lucas. Just like it was a factor for us with Rob Hummel (last season)."
  • Here's the latest Lucas update from the Free Press.
  • Sophomore forward Draymond Green has been getting praise. Green averages 8.4 rebounds per game to lead the league during Big Ten play, and Painter called Green "the glue" for the Spartans.