Purdue falls in its first road test of the Big Ten season.
With 13:15 left in today's game Purdue had the basketball on the drive. Anthony Johnson drove, got fouled by Travis trice, Then elbowed Trice in the mask. The call was talked about, reviewed, talked about some more, and reviewed again before it was ruled a technical foul on little AJ for the elbow. The call was likely the correct one, but the officials must have forgotten that AJ was fouled while shooting. He did not get his free throws owed before the technical (since the foul occurred before the technical on the shot), and MSU got two shots and the ball.
Trice made both free throws, Derrick Nix missed a tip shot and A.J. Hammons pulled down the rebound. Inexplicably, Hammons was whistled for his third foul. It was not for going over the back, but it was an offensive foul despite the fact that he didn't move and made contact with no Michigan State player. In fact, he didn't come within three feet of making contact with an MSU player. The Spartans got possession, Nix would hit two free throws, and Michigan State was up 47-41 when the game could have been tied had the elbow call not been reviewed (kind of like how Jacob Lawson's elbow to his face wasn't reviewed in the first half despite the fact he was lying on the ground under the basket for a minute and a half from it).
While the elbow call was the correct one, the call on Hammons was not. It made his fourth foul later (which was legit. He got arm) in the middle of Michigan State's run even more of an impact, as that would have only been a third. The Spartans kept playing their game, Gary Harris hit some big threes, and after a 39-38 lead at the first media timeout of the second half became a 28-7 run as the Spartans opened up a 20 point lead.
This was a rough one because Purdue was more than competitive on the road against a very good team before all momentum was killed by the run. The Boilers did a fair amount of contributing to the run by missing four straight free throws (two of them one-and-ones, making it like six straight misses) while Travis Carroll could not defend Nix and no one on the floor for Purdue could make a shot.
Credit to Michigan State for keeping Terone Johnson in check. Purdue also missed some key shots with D.J. Byrd taking a few rushed threes and both Little AJ and Rapheal Davis missing some open threes in the corner. Purdue was again cold from the field and we paid for it. Still, the game changed on that review. For whatever reason Purdue could not recover from it and Michigan State took advantage.
We did see some very, very good things, however. Michigan State is probably the toughest team we will face all season in terms of pounding inside and having slashing guards. We played two-to-toe with them and, if not for a ton of missed first half shots, even outplayed them for most of the game. Hammons showed he can be a force in the post and has the makings of being the best true center in the Big Ten. His toughness can't be overlooked, as he was dominant until the BS call with 12:59 left. That call was the officials essentially saying they did not want Hammons to continue participating in today's game.
While that call wasn't the sole reason Purdue lost (we missed too many shots for that) it was the call that changed the entire complexion of the game. After that call nothing went right and Purdue's entire offense went stagnant.
Once again, we had a growing pains game. We missed way too many free throws (9 of 20), took some dumb shots, and couldn't respond when we got hit by an avalanche. All we can do is pick ourselves up and move on. Hammons can have a huge game with no one to match up with him against Ohio State on Tuesday, and a victory over the Buckeyes would get things going back in the right direction. Despite the 23-point final margin this was not a blowout. Purdue was right there before things suddenly spun out of control. We have an identity in that Hammons is needed offensively inside to make everything else work. When taken away, things fall apart fast.
We still get another shot at these guys in Mackey Arena, and we know we can compete with them. A split with Michigan State is never a bad thing, and I know the game in West Lafayette is more than winnable now.