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Purdue University

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Purdue
vs. Michigan State
When: 7 p.m. today
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 106.7 FM, 92.7 FM

Boilers look to end Spartans’ win streak

– Purdue coach Matt Painter wants to start evening out the rivalry the Boilermakers have with Michigan State.

After defeating Michigan State three out of four times during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, the Boilermakers have lost the last four games against the Spartans.

It is a losing streak that started with a 74-56 loss in the 2011 Big Ten tournament and continued this season when Michigan State defeated Purdue 84-61 in East Lansing on Jan. 5.

“We’ve always had competitive battles,” said Painter, whose Boilermakers (12-11, 5-5) play host to the No. 12 Spartans (19-4, 8-2) at 7 p.m. today.

“They’ve actually won that last three out of four, so I think we have to do a better job of doing our part and playing harder and try and get a win.”

Michigan State comes into tonight’s game on a two-game winning streak, defeating Illinois 80-75 Jan. 31 and Minnesota 61-50 Wednesday. The Spartans are led by guard Keith Appling, a 6-foot-1 junior who averages 14 points, and Gary Harris, a 6-4 freshman who averages 12.9 points.

Purdue ended its two-game losing streak this week with a 58-49 victory over Penn State on Tuesday, and the Boilers have an emerging star in 7-foot freshman center A.J. Hammons.

Hammons, who scored 20 in the loss at Michigan State, had 15 points and 12 rebounds against Penn State. That performance came after he earned Big Ten freshman-of-the-week honors after his performances in a pair of losses the week before.

Hammons had a career-high 30 points and five rebounds in a 97-60 loss to Indiana Jan. 30, and he had 19 points and 13 rebounds after coming off the bench because of disciplinary reasons in a 75-60 loss to Northwestern.

“I was kind of shocked to see that he was freshman of the week, because we lost both games,” Painter said. “You probably shouldn’t get an award when you lose games, but he has done a good job for us.”

Hammons is second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.2 points, and he leads the Boilermakers in rebounding, averaging 5.8.

“He’s made improvements from game to game and gotten better,” Painter said. “He’s never been a big-time scorer, so now he is starting to get a little more comfortable on the offensive end, scoring the basketball. We really tried to work with him on not just scoring but his decision making in the post.

“His big offensive games, so far, have been when we’ve lost. Trying to get him established early and get him to be consistent and score the basketball, that’s not his fault. That’s mine as a coach and, especially, our guards in terms of getting him the ball where he feels comfortable so he can get something done.”

New Purdue football coach Darrell Hazell will be in the Mackey Arena West Club, starting at 6 p.m. today, to meet fans and sign autographs.

He will also be introduced to the crowd during the timeout at the 8-minute mark of the first half.

tkrausz@jg.net

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