What the Spartans were up against besides a big, and very good Purdue team...
Branden Dawson, out. The front line, in foul trouble. Denzel Valentine has to take a limping jog to the locker room, and then, Tum Tum's limping around, and in the midst of all that, the Spartans bear down on defense, hold onto Purdue's two big monsters A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas, and score enough at the end of the first half and into the second half to go on a 26-7 run to build a 10-point lead—a lead the Spartans held until there were less than 8 minutes to play.
Travis Trice...enough for an end of game kiss...
When the Spartans needed scoring down the stretch, senior Travis Trice stepped up to score 16 of the Spartans 18 points from the 5:55 mark until their were 48 seconds to play. Trice scored a game-high 27 points, which included two early breakaway dunks, hit 3 three pointers, dished 6 assists and had two steals. Trice, however, still was struggling from the free throw line where he only made 6 of 12 free throws.
Branden Dawson knocked out, but he seems okay.
Purdue's 7'2" big man Isaac "Klitschko-Ivan-Drago-whatever-he-hits-he-destroys" Haas, took out Branden Dawson with an accidental hit to the face. Dawson was cut and dazed and spent the rest of the game in the locker room. Dawson returned for senior night festivities but only played 9 minutes in the first half in which he was limited by Purdue's front-line size to only 2 rebounds and 0 points. Dawson did pick up two steals, one which led to one of the two Travis Trice's dunks, Dawson though, took his other steal down the court and got it stripped on the dribble.
A gang of rebounders...
Without Dawson, Michigan State used a team effort to rebound with a big Purdue team and were only out-rebounded by Purdue 34-33. Purdue's best offensive strategy in the first half was the second-chance point and Purdue totaled up 16 of them on their way to a 30-27 halftime lead. Even though out-sized, MSU grabbed an impressive 12 offensive rebounds led by Matt Costello with 4 offensive boards.
Playing a Man-Sized Game
Matt Costello might have played his best game of the year, especially given the importance of the game for the Spartans and the match-up challenge he personally faced in having to battle with Hammons and Hass. Costello blocked 4 of Hammons' shots, grabbed 7 rebounds (including 4 offensive boards), picked up 2 steals and scored 13 points which included a huge offensive rebound off of a missed free throw and a with-venom reverse dunk on a foul continuation. Costello's defensive effort was impressive as he used his speed and activity to help hold Hammons to 3 of 12 from the field while also denying the Purdue bigs the ball. Perhaps Costello's most important moment of the night though, came with the Spartans down by 9 with under 4 minutes to play in the first half. Costello, on defense, kept laying hard jabs and body blows on Hammons which got under Hammons' skin, to the point, that after Purdue's made basket, Hammons knocked Costello down while the teams were headed down the other way--a knockdown that resulted not only in Hammons' second foul, which took him out for the rest of the half, but also a technical foul which the Spartans converted into three points through making one of three free throws and then a Costello lay-up. Costello, though he committed 4 fouls and did run into some foul trouble, played smart down the stretch and never did foul out.
Playing Harder and Smarter
After two games where the energy and effort were missing, the Spartans effort and energy showed up on Senior Day in East Lansing. Though the effort was there in the first half, the results truly began to show as MSU held Purdue to only two made field goals for the first 12 minutes of the second half. The Spartans also only turned the ball over 8 times and did a fine job hunting for open shots when Coach Izzo tried to make it a low possession game and slowed the pace. Denzel Valentine played some of his best basketball with the game slowed down early in the second half, and totaled up 17 points on the game, which included hitting 4 threes, while grabbing 6 rebounds.
They Call Him The Wyoming Flash...
With Branden Dawson out, with Gavin Schilling committing 4 fouls in only 8 minutes played, and with Matt Costello in foul trouble too, Colby Wollenman stepped up and played a solid 14 minutes. Called to battle at the end of the first half, Wollenman had a nice follow-up rebound-bucket off of a Travis Trice missed lay-up and blocked a 7'2" Isaac Hass shot which led to a Denzel Valentine three. Wollenman grabbed 4 rebounds on the game, (2 offensive boards), and recklessly threw his body into the general fray.
The Spartans got 22 points and 15 rebounds from the bench which included Costello's very strong game, two three pointers from Marvin Clark Jr., Wollenman's effort, and 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals from Bryn Forbes.
Really? Free Throws? Still?
MSU shot only 17 of 29 from the free throw line (58%) and their missed free throws down the stretch allowed Purdue to keep hanging within two possessions. To focus on the positive, Matt Costello hit 5 of 7 from the charity stripe and Bryn Forbes hit 3 of 4 from the foul line.
A little breathing room...
Losing to Minnesota and then to Wisconsin brought back the bubble talk. With their 20th win of the season the Spartans seem to be a lock for the tournament but a win against Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday would seal the deal.