After splitting a couple of road games last week, Michigan State returned to their home court to host Big Ten-leading Purdue, with the chance to get back into a tie for first place with a win. The energy was great inside the Breslin, as it always is, with the Izzone ready to do their part against one of the nation’s top teams. The game proved to be worthy of the raucous atmosphere, a back-and-forth physical game that came down to the wire.
Game Flow Highlights:
The game started with a good omen if you are a Spartan fan with Mady Sissoko winning the opening jump against Zach Edey, who he gives up 7 inches to. It was reminiscent of Ben Wallace repeatedly beating Shaquille O’Neal for every jump ball in the 2004 Pistons/Lakers NBA Finals. Then on the first possession, MSU opened up the time capsule and pulled out a play they haven’t been running as much this year - the old heel-on-the-sideline play for a turnover by AJ Hoggard. Purdue immediately tried to establish their big man inside, but Mady leaned into him just enough to cause his hook shot not to fall. Back the other way, Hoggard made up for his opening turnover by getting the scoring started. From here, though, the game was sloppy, particularly by the Spartans, until the first TV timeout. There were more turnovers. There were missed layups and alley-oop passes that were way off. On two consecutive trips, Hoggard threw the ball to Hauser just past half-court, except both times Hauser was not looking; miraculously, neither of those ended up in turnovers. On the good side, Mady was playing decent defense against Edey and Michigan State even made a triple, deserting the plan from the Illinois game of bricking all of those attempts.
In the next segment, MSU’s shooting turned cold, Purdue hit a couple of treys, including one by the little brother of former Spartan Foster Loyer, and the lead quickly was up to 9. Coming out of the under-12, Izzo subbed Jaxon Kohler in for Sissoko, and it started off well. We saw another one of the freshman’s patented turnaround knee-up jumpers go swish. He made a nice play on the next possession, too, but it was negated by a foul. After that, his game quickly deteriorated. Having to cover Edey on the defensive end, he looked lost. For some reason, the strategy of staying between the monster and the basket and leaning into him - the strategy which Mady was having success with - was completely abandoned. Edey got some easy baskets in a hurry. And I guess this affected Kohler on the other end, because he was now running around not knowing where to go, who to set screens for, how to space the floor. He was completely lost. MSU did knock in a couple late ones to pull the lead back down from 13 to 9.
The first controversy of the game happened shortly after it returned from the under-8. Off a missed Tyson Walker jumper, Mady went up for the rebound against Edey. Edey came down with the ball as well as Mady’s arm, which he had pinned to his side with his own arm. He twisted around and essentially performed a judo maneuver to send Mady to the ground. Mady got called for the foul. It was his first of the half, but it would relegate him to the bench until halftime. The Breslin Center was letting the officials know their collective opinion. Not wanting to go back to Kohler, Izzo inserted Carson Cooper into the game. There was a funny moment shortly before the last TV timeout of the first half. In response to a missed shot by Foster’s brother, Fletcher, the Izzone broke out into a “Foster’s better” cheer (spoiler alert: it’s not true). The broadcast crew used the opportunity to show Mr. and Mrs. Loyer, who seemed to be good sports about it.
In the last few minutes of the first half, MSU finally started getting some offensive rhythm. Along with some good defense by Cooper on Edey, the Spartans pulled to within 2 at halftime, though the Boilermakers big man already had recorded a double-double.
Whatever flow the Spartans channeled at the end of the first half, they continued it after the break, quickly going on a 7-0 run to take a five-point lead. This was the beginning of Tyson Walker catching fire. Purdue got one back, and MSU led by 3 at the first TV timeout. The next portion of the game saw Mady on the bench, and predictably Purdue went on a 7-0 run, 5 of which were scored by Edey, to retake the lead. And in the stretch to the under-8 timeout, it was pretty steady, with the visitors clinging to a three-point lead.
Getting toward the end of the game, the referees began to whistle Purdue for some fouls to help even things out. The offense began heating up. Tyson Walker hit back-to-back triples, but both times, Purdue answered with a three-point trip of their own, the second being an &1 at the under-4 whistle which led to a 1-point MSU lead going into the home stretch.
After Hoggard decided to miss two FTs at the most inopportune time, the younger Loyer reclaimed the lead for Purdue, but only to have Walker answer with a layup to put the Spartans back on top. This happened again on each team’s next trip, first Loyer hitting 2 FTs and then Walker nailing a jumper. With 90 seconds left, Purdue called a timeout. The Boilermakers failed to score coming out of the huddle, but MSU failed to capitalize, and with 32 seconds left, Loyer earned another trip to the line, where he naturally sunk them both. Even as a freshman, he is a better player than Foster ever was for us. MSU inbounded the ball, and a timeout was called just as the ball entered the front court. Guys, I hope you like timeouts; this was the first of five in the final half-minute so I won’t mention them anymore. I’m not even mentioning the two lengthy reviews which added several more minutes to the end of the game. Anyway, MSU came back with a chance to hold it for a final shot. Walker was given the ball. He dribbled inside, then back outside, made a move on his defender, and rose up for a shot. Hit it! But there were still 12 ticks to go. Purdue brought it up, Loyer passed it into Edey who turned over his left shoulder and scored over Sissoko with 2 seconds remaining. MSU tried to baseball pass it in, but a Purdue defender tipped it out to the sideline. Fortunately, hardly anytime went off the clock, and MSU had one more chance with 1.8 left, and now they were inbounding it from up court. The pass came into Walker who was cutting across the top of the key. He turned to the basket, squared up, rose in his shot, and launched… but a defender was barreling in on him, and I can’t tell if he just got a fingertip on the shot or if his presence just forced Tyson’s aim off, but the shot did not even graze the rim. And Purdue escaped with the win at the buzzer.
Guys, I am angry about this game. I fully believe Michigan State should have won that game. But this is an instance where it was a combination of a couple blatantly bad calls by the refs as well as the Spartans just shooting themselves in the foot. The two calls I am referring to are the arm drag by Edey on Mady in the first half which was inexplicably called as a foul on Mady. The second one was the out-of-bounds review that was contested between Mady and Edey. On the floor, the ball was called off Mady and it was upheld in review. I think this was wrong. I feel I clearly saw a shot where the ball had just rolled past Mady’s fingertips and you could still see that Edey’s right middle finger was bent back, indicating the ball was still in contact with it. In the next frame, the finger becomes unbent. This should have definitely been facilitated by the two players having different skin color, so I don’t know how the refs could not distinguish this. But I do not want to blame the refs for the Spartans loss, because there was more self-inflicted damage. The unforced turnovers are becoming laughable. Bad passes, lack of court awareness, and poor communication all facilitated that 13-point deficit in the first half. It is not just the stepping out of bounds inadvertently that I am referring to when I cite the lack of court awareness. On top of that, there were three instances where MSU thought they had scored a triple, only to find out a toe was on the arc. Two of these were by Walker and one was by Akins. In a one-point loss, those three points were critical. This game was there for the taking. Let’s hope Izzo and Co. are as pissed about this as I am and they start cleaning things up.
3 Things I Liked:
- Tyson Walker going off. 12-23 on FGs. 4-8 on 3s. 30 points. I can’t remember the last time I saw a scoring performance like that from someone in a State uniform. I’d like to see this more often, having one person be a dominant scoring option (most likely Walker or Hauser) with the rest of the players contributing 5 to 10 apiece.
- Mady’s, and to some extent Carson’s, defense on Edey. We saw what defensive strategy worked - staying between him and the basket, and then leaning on him with all their weight as soon as he catches the ball. There were several times when this maneuver forced Edey to be offline or too strong with his shot. When this was not done, including all the times Kohler was covering him, it would lead to him utilizing his 3” vertical to dunk the ball.
- (as is always the case in our losses, time for me to really reach for the 3rd like) Izzo not getting a technical. Lord knows there were at least a couple instances where he could have gone off more than he did and picked up a T.
3 Things I Did Not Like:
- Tyson Walker not getting other stats. Yes, he was great at scoring tonight and I guess he did get three rebounds (I don’t recall, but I would bet at least one of them was of the long, outside-the-paint variety). But Tyson had no assists, no steals, and no blocks. To me, this is unacceptable. Offensively, he probably has the ball in his hands second most behind Hoggard. He is a PG and we’ve seen him be a pretty good one. He needs to be more than just a shooter sometimes in this system. And on the other side, he is our best on-ball defender. We did not see him being much of a nuisance to their ball-handlers today.
- 4 points from the bench. Yes, most of this can be chalked up to Malik Hall not being in the game. But Brooks is a better shooter than tonight’s 0-4 shooting performance. Holloman took no shots. And Kohler and Cooper each scored on their only attempts of the game. We can’t have the playbook shrink so much when we put in the second unit. If defenses know that half the players in the game are not going to shoot the ball, it makes it that much easier to scheme a defense and prevent us from scoring.
- Speaking of Malik, remember that play where a loose ball was going toward the MSU bench and Mady raced to get it, jumped in the air, and tossed it off the Purdue player to give us possession? Well, I am pretty sure Mady crashed into Hall on that play, and maybe even landed on his foot. I saw Hall, who for some reason was sitting in the middle of the Spartan bench, stand up quickly when Mady went into the row of players and it looked like he was trying to push Mady away, perhaps because Mady was standing on Malik’s foot. Let’s see if we hear anything about this. But maybe if you are injured and not playing in a game, you stay at the end of the bench.
Another short turnaround and another ranked opponent, as Rutgers comes to East Lansing Thursday night at 6:30 P.M.