Michigan State traveled to Mackey Arena and got crushed by the Purdue Boilermakers. The 77-61 beat down was over before the end of the first half.
Read: Full Game Recap Here
Even in defeat there are lessons to learn. Purdue is the number 1 ranked team in the country, and their star Zach Edey is a serious contender for NCAA Player of the Year. Michigan State was exposed by a better team, in an arena they have struggled in for years. The sky is not falling but there are concerning elements coming out of this game.
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: Hall is not the silver bullet we all hoped
Over the past few weeks of uncertainty around Malik Hall’s health, the view seems to have crystalized that when Hal plays MSU is elite, and when he doesn’t play the team struggles. It is true that Malik Hall makes this team better. The records show that. It’s also clear that his mere presence on the floor automatically elevates this team.
Without Malik Hall, and on their home court, MSU dragged Purdue into a slog it out battle that they lost by one. With Mali Hall, at Mackey Arena, MSU got rocked.
This was not Malik Hall’s fault. It should simply stand as a fact that reminds us there are no silver bullet solutions in college basketball.
When your team’s top two scorers do not get into double digits, you’re not going to win that often. Joey Hauser had one of his least impactful games in a long while with 3 points and 5 rebounds. Tyson Walker shouldn’t be expected to repeat his 30 point outburst from the first Purdue game, but scoring more than 9 points? That would have been nice. Particularly in the first half.
MSU found offense from AJ Hoggard (more on him later) and Jaden Akins. That was about it. Even Akins didn’t score much when the game was actually in the balance (the first half).
Letting Purdue close out the first half on a 10-0 run between the 8 minute and 4 minute media timeouts, then letting them end the half on an 18-5 run is not a winning recipe.
MSU was matching Purdue for hot shooting for the first 12 minutes of the game, but this team is not built to maintain that. Purdue kept hot shoting, and MSU went customarily quiet, drifting back to their more average pedestrian shooting percentages.
It’s a lot to expect heroics out of a guy clearly still hurting, but Malik Hall was unable to influence this game very much. MSU fans have been waiting for his return as if that would fix everything. It is clear tonight the team as a whole needs to elevate its play to compete against top teams. Thank goodness that requirement will never require playing at Mackey again this season.
POINT 2: Michigan State Needs to Assess Its Defensive Schemes
In two games against Zach Edey, MSU has let the 7’4” potential player of the year record career highs. Edey looks unstoppable against MSU. Admittedly, he looks unstoppable against MOST opponents, but two career highs in a low is a red flag.
Combine this defensive approach against Purdue with the approach deployed against Indiana and a disturbing trend is starting to emerge.
Izzo has made a Hall of Fame career out of picking his poison against other teams. Historically this usually meant allowing an opponents top player to go off, while locking dowing everyone else. In the last two games, MSU has tried to do more doubling and digging down on the opponents top player. For Purdue that meant Edey, for Indiana that meant Tracy Jackson-Davis.
In both games MSU was exposed. At Indiana you could blame fatigue and too many guys with fouls or the flu (as Izzo said after that game). Against Purdue, the double heavy approach against Edey allowed Purdue to hit high percentage three pointers. MSU looked late on rotations and at times lost on screens. They were so focused on doubling down on Edey that it left shooters wide open and shooting 56% from three in the first half.
When MSU adjusted - a bit - in the second half, Purdue shot less well from three but Edey went crazy.
Other teams have figured out how to compete straight up with against Purdue. Even if no one (other than Rutgers) has figured out how to beat Purdue, teams have figured out how to keep Edey around 20 points of scoring. By comparison, in both game for MSU against Purdue Edey has accounted for HALF of Purdue’s total offense.
Whatever the schemes being drawn up are, Izzo’s staff has a lot to improve. That’s a strange thought for a coach who has made his career on defense.
POINT 3: AJ Hoggard had a bounce back game - MSU needs this every game
Literally, hours before this game I was drafting an article, “How worried should we be about AJ Hoggard?”
20 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds later I think the answer is NO, it’s not time to worry about AJ (though we all can wonder how he went from automatic at the free throw line to missing the majority of his attempts recently….but I digress)
Hoggard was the one bright spot in this game. He showed flashes of the aggressive, all downhill player he had evolved into early in the season. He even hit some timely threes.
Around him, everyone else struggled. Hoggard would have had at least three more assists if Walker or Hauser was at all hitting shots at their normal rates.
:The question consistently with Hoggard is just that: consistency. Hoggard has been in a slump the last few games. Hopefully, this output in an otherwise forgettable game can be a positive step for the future.
And 1 (POINT 4 - because the refs helped me out): Fouls…
I’m going to keep this short as it is obviously sour grapes, and I’ve ranted on specifically Edey already. Also, better officiating would not have changed this game’s outcome.
The Big Ten needs to figure out what’s going on with fouls. Purdue is getting calls in every game - it’s not just Edey getting the calls, its a sense that their entire team just doesn’t foul. At half time not a single starter for Purdue had a foul. That’s statistically unbelievable.
I hope the Big Ten moves to professionalize their referee crews. The refs deserve a truly full time schedule (i.e. this should not be a part time job) and pay. The teams deserve a more consistent set of officials.