By KEITH CARRELL
ISL Purdue Writer
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Blood, sweat, and tears combine for the quintessential makeup of basketball in Indiana at any level.
Michigan State Spartans, the traditional Big Ten powerhouse under Tom Izzo, plays with Indiana values. The matchups between the two almost always end up evolving into a clash of wills on the hardwood. Saturday’s was a typical one between the two — the essence of physical Big Ten play with the spotlight on bigs from both squads.
The result was a hard-fought grinder that Purdue eventually seized control of in an 80-63 victory.
Michigan State’s Miles Bridges went off for 33 points the first time the teams met on January 24th. It appeared Bridges may have picked up where he left off with an early three that splashed through the nets to give the Spartans an early 5-2 lead, but Vincent Edwards and company had another option in mind. Through the rest of the half, the Purdue guards locked down Bridges as he missed his next four field goal attempts. Bridges would end up scoring 14 points on the day, but didn’t find the scoring column again until six minutes into the second half when the game had largely gotten away from the Spartans.
Edwards showed pride in how he and the team defended Bridges.
“At their place he really got going… I was just trying to take up space and… to hold him to 14 (points) compared to having 33 in the last game was huge.”
— Purdue Basketball (@BoilerBall) February 19, 2017
Whether it’s the way Purdue coach Matt Painter truly elects to open games or not, a trend of late appears to be getting Swanigan an early post touch, but then quickly switching to the perimeter game where the Purdue guards attempt to knock down three after three. Throughout the season this has had varying levels of success. When the shot is going down early, it can result in an insurmountable lead for the Boilers, but when the threes are off the mark it generally allows the opponent to stay close early, as was the case in this one.
Purdue shoots the long ball early and often, not just early in the game, but also early in the shot clock. That poor shot selection often results in Purdue’s frontcourt not yet being in position to box out or rebound and in turn allows for easy rebounds and transition points for the opponent. The epitome of this occurred with five minutes remaining in the first half when Dakota Mathias swiped the ball from Kenny Goins in the lane and advanced the ball to Edwards. Edwards jacked up a quick three and missed. Matt McQuaid grabbed the rebound and the ball quickly found its way into Alvin Ellis III’s hands for a transition three to cut Purdue’s lead to eight.
“We haven’t shot the ball well from three in the last three games,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said after his team went 5-15 from deep. “We haven’t shot it as well and I think that’s good for us, because we’ve had some really good games shooting and we’ve lost those games. We can’t have the mentality to (just) outscore people, even though it’s a good problem to have at times when you go against good quality opponents.”
The big advantage Purdue has had this entire season, though is the ability to use outside or inside presence as a strength on any given night, and sometimes both. Isaac Haas, fresh off of arguably his best game of the season, made an impact early and often. On his first possession on offense, the 7-foot-2 center spun around his defender for a layup and on his first defensive possession he grabbed a rebound high and strong so nobody else could have a shot at it. He teamed up with Caleb Swanigan to control the game for Purdue. In the first half the duo combined for 19 points; nine rebounds and for the game they combined for 32 points, 20 rebounds, and five assists. In the process, Swanigan netted his 23rd double-double of the season, his ninth consecutive.
As important as Haas and Swanigan’s scoring and rebounding prowess were to the game, equally as important was their effectiveness at getting Michigan State’s forwards in foul trouble. Nick Ward got in trouble first, picking up a foul less than two minutes into the game which saw him go to the bench in favor of Goins. Goins had a moderately effective half substituting for Ward, but the foul count began to domino on both quickly in the second half. At the break Ward had two fouls and Goins had picked up one. Ward managed to pick up his third about a minute into the second half and was immediately yanked for Goins. Within a minute, Goins picked up his second and third foul. Izzo opted to stick with Goins, though, and the forward played until 15:53 remain before picking up his fourth and took a seat while Ward got another crack at Purdue’s front line. Ward responded by earning his fourth less than two minutes later and again was pulled in favor of Goins. The fouls subdued for a bit and Ward returned to action, but fouled Haas to pick up his fifth with 8:19 remaining in the game. Goins fouled Swanigan with 5:41 left to earn his “left-right-left…” chant all the way to the bench.
The last couple of home games for Purdue has resulted in possessions with superior ball movement and today was no exception. With twelve minutes remaining in the game, McQuaid missed a three point attempt and Mathias one-armed a defensive rebound on the weak side. Mathias drove the ball to the nearside elbow and then kicked the ball into Swanigan on the blocks who in turn tossed the ball to Haas, who was cutting down the center of the lane, for an authoritative dunk. The slam extended Purdue’s lead to 57-39 and forced Izzo to call a timeout while the fans in Mackey Arena exploded in jubilation.
This game had more than its share of carnage. With 4:42 to play in the first half, Edwards banged knees inadvertently with a Spartan and immediately went to the ground in pain. He managed to pick himself up and stumble his way to the Purdue bench where he sat down and began pointing at his knee to the team’s trainer. After a brief discussion, they headed to the locker room to get a better look and got Edwards received a thumbs up that nothing serious was done. Edwards returned to the court for the final 1:24 of the half and with no ill-effects showing was very aggressive with a number of drives to the rim in the second half on his way to twelve points.
On the Michigan State side, things appeared to be much worse and it’s doubtful Izzo or any of the players care much about the final result. With 9:16 left in the game, Purdue had amassed a 20 point lead when, Indianapolis native and Spartan senior Eron Harris was found lying prone on the court near the basket face up with little movement for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a minute or two. I did not have a good angle, but it sounded as though Harris fell awkwardly after a layup attempt and Ward landed on his leg. The collective air was let out of Mackey from fans of both teams as Spartan players wiped tears from their faces, trainers hovered over Harris, and paramedics wheeled a stretcher toward the immobile Harris. In a sign of fans who appreciate not just Boilermakers, or Indiana products, but all players, everyone in Mackey rose to their feet and applauded Harris in support and appreciation as he was carted off of the court while he held up a fist before placing a towel behind his head and was wheeled through the tunnel. The injury sustained was officially reported by Michigan State as a right knee injury.
“They have it listed as a sprained knee,” Izzo said of Harris’ injury after seeing him on crutches postgame. “It’s sad, that kid’s been playing his tail off, been working his butt off, he’s become a better leader, and I don’t know. He’ll be out for a while and yet who knows how long, I guess we’ll find out on Monday.”
When action resumed, the Spartans deployed a full court press in a last ditch effort to fluster the Boilermakers. Although it was likely the most effective the press has been against Purdue this season, it still managed only varying levels of success and the Boilers were able to sustain at least a 15 point margin the rest of the way. The victory will ensure a two-way tie at the top of the Big Ten after the weekend games are completed. Maryland and Wisconsin square off Sunday with the winner keeping a share of the league-lead and the loser falling a game behind.
Enough said. pic.twitter.com/jMJvyjER69
— The Paint Crew (@ThePaintCrew) February 19, 2017
Purdue is playing the best basketball in the Big Ten right now and perhaps even in the nation after winning eight of its last nine. The Boilermakers will take their five-game winning streak on the road next with games at Penn State and Michigan. The Boilers will then return home to square off against Indiana on Senior Night, potentially Swanigan’s swan song at home in a Purdue uniform.
Blood, sweat, and tears… Indiana basketball. It’s a game, but it’s not always just a game.
The game was the sixth sellout of the season in Mackey (5th in Big Ten play)… With one more win, Purdue will guarantee a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament… Swanigan’s ninth consecutive double-double is the third longest streak in school history, Dischinger had 12 in a row in 1960… Spike Albrecht tied his season high with seven points… The three is a big part of Purdue’s arsenal, Purdue has five players with at least 35 made threes this season (a school record) and Swanigan has 29… During the game, Edwards surpassed the 1,000 point career mark (50thBoilermaker to hit the mark)… Swanigan has tied Joe Barry Carroll for Purdue’s single-season rebounding count with 352… At the half only nine total fouls had been called, resulting in two free throw attempts from each school, Swanigan made both and Ward missed both… The fouls evened out in the second half, though, with 26 total fouls and 31 combined free throw attempts (for the game, Purdue went 21-25 and MSU went 4-10)… Purdue committed only two turnovers in the second half and ten for the game… Purdue was outrebounded by one, but outscored Michigan State 42-24 in the paint… Earlier in the week Purdue announced a website to promote Swanigan as a National Player of the Year candidate: https://biggie4npoy.com.