EAST LANSING — The Spartans turned the ball over seven times in the first half, four coming in the opening minutes at the Breslin Center. More importantly, it didn’t take long for Michigan State to regroup — never having lost the lead after the ten minute marker. Even so, Izzo felt different.
“The score was not indicative of the game,” said Izzo. “It was a war. Gene Keady would’ve been proud. Jud would’ve been proud. It was a tough and physical battle.”
Michigan State fought for the entirety of the contest, continuously working for every shot they took. Purdue showed relentless physicality and effort. They weren’t going away — Winston certainly felt the brunt of it throughout the 36 minutes he spent on the floor.
“They were a lot more physical. They didn’t let me roam around how I wanted too,” said Winston. “I felt like I worked for every bucket tonight. I didn't really get a lot of easy ones.”
Purdue accomplished their goals, for awhile. The Boilermakers put a body on Winston, putting him on the floor, smothering him, bumping him at just the right moment. It threw him out of rhythm for a bit, but he wasn’t ever going to stop pushing. It’s not in his nature. He’s a guy who knows exactly what’s expected of him and more often than not, he delivers.
He went the first 17 minutes without a bucket, although it didn't stop him from scoring nine in the final three and extending the Spartan lead to 13 at halftime.
“It felt like they were pressuring me the whole game and I was just constantly pushing. I wasn’t going to back down,” said Winston. “I had to work for every bucket, but I was willing to work for it because that’s what my team needed.”
Defensively, the Spartans played lockdown defense against the Big Ten’s leading scorer (prior to the game), in Carsen Edwards. Matt McQuaid and Aaron Henry relished their opportunity to suffocate the Boilermakers throughout the night. In fact, Purdue’s strategy of slowing Winston down, happened to work much better for MSU when guarding Edwards.
“The team also did a great job, it wasn’t just one person,” said Matt McQuaid. “A player that good at scoring, in Carsen Edwards can’t be stopped with just one person.”
Purdue head coach, Matt Painter said he thought his star point guard was “guarding himself” at times, pointing out his workload and how it looked like he was pressing. Time and time again Edwards would force shots up with hands in his face.
The junior out of Texas took far too many ill-advised shots from outside of the arc (2-13 3P%), when being closely guarded. Kudos to the Spartans for making him uncomfortable and allowing him to take a large quantity of low percentage shots.
However, the Spartans seemed to fall asleep during the second half — which allowed the Boilermakers to crawl all the way back and cut the lead to four points. Fortunately for MSU fans, they went on a 23-10 run, effectively putting the game away.
Ward, Winston, and Goins finished with a combined 46 points, 12 assists, 26 rebounds, and 92 minutes.