On Saturday, the 18th ranked Michigan State Spartans, coming off of a loss to Minnesota on Tuesday, took on the Purdue Boilermakers in their B1G home opener.
Purdue came into the game at 7-6 and were coming off of a huge upset win at home against Illinois and were hoping to continue this streak on Saturday against another ranked foe from the B1G conference. However, it was all Michigan State could do to prevent themselves from having an 0-2 start in conference play.
In the first half, the game was played pretty tight throughout, with neither team able to gain much of an upper hand. Nevertheless, Michigan State did end up taking a lead into the break, 36-30, after receiving big lifts from the shooting of guards Gary Harris and Travis Trice, who combined to go 5-6 from behind the arc and score 19 points.
When the second half began, things got very physical and fouls started to pile up on both sides like mad. Michigan State didn’t even make a field goal in the second half until the 12:19 mark, when freshman Denzel Valentine found sophomore Branden Dawson inside for a layup to put the Spartans up 49-41.
From that point on, Michigan State never looked back. Gary Harris’ hot hand continued as he was able to connect on three more 3-pointers to finish with 22 points, including 6-8 from downtown, helping the Spartans close out the Boilermakers 84-61.
“Gary Harris really killed us,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said of Harris’ shooting. “He got into a rhythm. You can’t let a guy like that get going.”
Harris, who had been in a little bit of a shooting slump lately, bounced back in a big way in this game, having possibly his best game of the season
“Coach has my back,” Harris said. “He just said keep shooting, and that I gotta shoot my way out of it, and I was able to do that and put it all together.”
Purdue was led by the 7’0” freshman A.J. Hammons, who finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks while senior D.J. Byrd chipped in with 14 points but it wasn’t enough as Michigan State overpowered them and was able to pull away late and win big.
It was a good win for Michigan State, being able to bounce back after a tough road loss at Minnesota. Keith Appling played the role of floor general, dishing out 8 assists as five Spartans finished in double digit scoring, including Dawson who finished with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite the impressive play of Dawson, Izzo still had some things to say about his game.
“He has to play with more energy,” Izzo said of Dawson. ” I thought the first half he didn’t and I thought the second half he played with as much as I’ve seen him play with in over a year, and it was a big difference in the game. He’s head and shoulders above everybody on a lot of those rebounds. He got 11 boards. He missed a couple of put backs or he would have had 20 and 11.”
Another bright spot of this game for Michigan State was that they were able to keep in check two things they’ve been struggling a lot with this season: free throw shooting and turnovers.
Coming off of a game where they shot an awful 2-10 from the line against Minnesota, the Spartans were much better in this game, going 18-22 from the charity stripe. As for the turnovers, they were able to hold them to just 12, well below their season average of 16.
At this point of the season, Michigan State stands at 12-3 (1-1 B1G). Up next for the Spartans, they will travel to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes (11-3, 0-1) on Thursday. Tip-off will be at 7:00 PM.
Follow Ryan Squanda on Twitter @squandarunner.