Michigan State let a winnable game get away in their matchup against Big Ten leader Purdue. Michigan State dropped the home match up, 64-63, after letting Purdue Center Zach Edey absolutely dominate most of the game.
Michigan State had a chance to win it with 1.8 seconds left. An inbounds play to Tyson Walker gave him a good look at a three that drifted wide left into an airball.
Michigan State played without Malik Hall - which now may be their new normal.
Here are my shoot from the hip takes on the game. Like an end of shot clock heave, ready them and let me know what your deep shot after the game is in the comments.
POINT 1: Michigan State’s short handed rotation almost pulled this out, that’s good and bad news for the future.
The headline for Michigan State coming into this game was the status of Malik Hall. In a radio address prior to the game, Coach Tom Izzo revealed Hall would not be playing in the game. In his postgame address he added that they still don’t know what the outlook is for Hall:
“we still don’t know what’s going on, just so you know. I mean, nothing looks good in the immediate future. Whether it’s the full year or not, we don’t know.”
This left Michigan State without one of its key defenders. The difference in MSU statistically on defense with Hall and without is stark. By one estimate, MSU is a top 15 defense in the country WITH Malik Hall in the lineup, and outside the top 125 without him.
In a game, featuring a behemoth of a talent like Purdue’s Zach Edey, and some talented freshman guards, Malik Hall not being available made this game look like a potential blowout. And it’s left most people online crying that MSU is now a bubble team.
Instead, at least for this game, Michigan State hung with Purdue the entire game. And potentially showed a brighter future than we might have hoped.
Yes, Zach Edey looked dominant. He led all scorers with 32 points, and all rebounders with 17 rebounds. For a large part of the first half, Edey was single handedly outsourcing MSU.
And that seemed to be the plan for the Spartans.
Michigan State has a history of doing this. They will stubbornly refuse to double (though they did do that at times tonight) a major threat for the other team. Instead, letting the opposing star player get theirs, and limit the rest of the opponents roster. That worked for most of the night against Purdue.
Mady Sissoko did not have a career night, but at times looked like a guy with a bright career. His work throughout the game to defend Edey early in the possession and force him away from the basket was almost as good as you could have hoped.
Sissoko did so well that when he was on the floor MSU mostly defended Edey one-on-one with occasional digs by guards. This left the rest of the Spartans available to blanket Purdue shooters and fight for rebounds.
This worked for the first half - and for much of the game. MSU held everyone else on Purdue to under 30% shooting for most of the night. In the end, MSU actually outrebounded Purdue by 1.
When MSU got into trouble it was mostly when they didn’t have Sissoko available. In the first half they stuck with Jaxon Kohler, the first man off the bench, too long.
Kohler started out with Edey taking a breather on the bench and drew crucial fouls on Purdue’s backup center. Kohler showed some good offensive moves. It did not look as good when Edey returned. Instead of matching Edey with Mady Sissoko or bringing in an improving Carson Cooper, Izzo stuck with Kohler. Edey scored six straight points and MSU fought from a large deficit the rest of the half.
Carson Cooper had a mixed night against Edey, though he generally appeared a better defensive matchup than Kohler. That’s really all you can ask of a guy like Cooper at this point. He generally allowed MSU to stick to its game plan.
The problems for MSU started in the second half when Mady picked up a couple of controversial calls (of his four fouls, I’d say I agreed with two of them…but more on that later). Cooper was forced on the court later in the game than seemed to be the plan. Cooper being out of position on pick and rolls helped Purdue’s Fletcher Loyer get hot.
On a positive note, the fight this team showed tonight t shows that this roster has potential. Even without Malik Hall, they can bring a defensive intensity. Walker and Akins played at times phenomenal defense. Sissoko did what he needed to do, and the team collectively found ways to hunt for rebounds.
Yes, it took Tyson Walker absolutely going off to create offense, but if they can get a bit more balance, and avoid the mistakes (see next point), it shows there is still fight and punch.
Tonight, MSU showed they can be more than a bubble team without Malik Hall. They also showed how rocky it will be.
Michigan State’s inability to contain Loyer at the end of the game was the reason they lost, even more so than Edey. And it is the second game in a row with that concerning trend.
In the last two games, Purdue and Illinois, the opposing team had a player light it up to close out the game that Malik Hall most likely would have been pivoted to defensively.
Fletcher Loyer was able to exploit a discombobulated Carson Cooper for mismatches. Maybe with Hall, there is less of that, and smarter help defense covers some of those sins. Against Illinois it was plain, when Malik Hall was on the court he could contain Mayer, when he left the game Mayer went nuts.
Malik Hall cannot be replaced on this team, but his absence can be covered. Tonight showed this team can compete, even if their margin for error is substantially smaller.
POINT 2: How do you complain about a guy that scores 30? By pointing out it should have been 33. That and other small mistakes doomed this team
Tyson Walker was heroic tonight. There is something about playing Purdue that he loves. He becomes the shot hunter we all hope he can be for the rest of the season. His game was so crucial to MSU being anywhere near competitive it feels mean to complain about anything….but…here I go.
Walker should have had 33 points tonight. Nope, I’m not saying he should have hit that last shot - that would have been nice of course. I am saying with the shots he MADE, he should have had 33 points, not 30. Three of Tyson Walker’s made shots were foot on the line 3-pointers that resulted in only two points.
In a one point game, and without Malik Hall in EVERY game for Michigan State, the margin for error is non-existent. Walker is too experienced, and too aware, to be sloppy with his feet on the court.
Again, I KNOW this is mean. I know I am complaining about someone that just painted the Sistine Chapel, and I don’t like the borders of the section behind a column. But facts are facts. Even one of those toe on the line shots with his feet in better position and MSU ties or wins this game.
These detail errors seemed all too present across this game tonight.
From leaders like Hoggard and Hauser, there were just odd miscommunications. Hoggard is formally credited with 2 turnovers, my notes had him responsible for four in the first half. At two separate times, Hauser was looking to the bench to get the offensive play, and Hoggard chose to throw the ball at the back of his head. Weirdly, both happened SUPER early in the possession, before anyone expected the point guard to give up the ball.
Sissoko had two turnovers that looked self-inflicted. On two of his rebounds, he secured the ball only to bobble it and turn it over trying to get it to another player on his own team.
Where MSU looked locked in defensively as a team right from the start, they looked totally out of sorts offensively the entire first half. Even as MSU improved its shooting and limited the turnovers in the second half, there were still mistakes. And largely, it felt like MSU got less mistake prone as their offense turned into, “hey Walker, go do it.”
A career night, and potential legacy defining moment by Walker, was wasted by a cascade of tiny mistakes. MSU showed tonight it cannot survive that. They better take notice as this season continues.
POINT 3: The Illinois loss (and the ghost of the Northwestern loss) hurt more after a game like this
There is no such thing as a good loss. I accept that cliche. That said, a one point loss, to the number 3 team in the country, and a clear top team in our league without a key player doesn’t feel awful. Disappointing? Yes. Awful? No.
What feels awful is two losses in a row. More awful: Two winnable games in a row fumbled down the stretch.
If MSU had pulled it out against Illinois, this loss to Purdue would have set MSU only one game back of Purdue in the Big Ten. With some luck, someone else shocks Purdue down the road and the Spartans pull even.
These two losses in a row, plus the haunting loss to Northwestern, leave MSU 4-3 in the Big Ten and arguably on the outside looking in for the Big Ten title.
MSU has a lot of resetting of dreams to do this week. They will need to decide for themselves how they see their ceiling without Malik Hall. They need to avoid a swoon like the year they lost Josh Langford and dropped three in a row out of shock.
Unfortunately, they most likely have let the dream of a Big Ten title slip away early. Now, it’s about being the best team they can be, and ready for the Tournaments. Hopefully they’ll realize, that’s still a pretty great dream.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what your takeaways from the game in the comments.