After a couple of bad weeks it is starting to come together for Purdue. The Boilers got a complete team performance on Saturday and avenged a loss to Michigan State from two weeks ago, advancing to the Big Ten Tournament championship game where it will play Iowa.
I say team effort because there was no one major standout (though Jaden Ivey’s second half was excellent). Five players scored in double figures. Purdue led by as many as 13 in the second half, but the Spartans fought back, cutting it to one at one point. Even though Michigan State hit 9 of 11 shots at one point Purdue seemed to have an answer.
The biggest answer came on consecutive possessions from Eric Hunter Jr. With Purdue leading by only one at 57-56 with 5:30 left Hunter buried a corner three to push he lead to four. The Spartans then just missed on a putback at the rim, but Trevion Williams corralled the rebound on the offensive end Tre found Hunter for another three, and the lead was suddenly back to seven at the 4:25 mark.
Ivey was incredible with 22 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, numerous circus shots, and his ability to finish while getting assaulted by chairs. Tre dominated the final minutes and had 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists. Mason Gillis had 10 points and 7 rebounds, six coming on a pair of big three-pointers. Hunter and Zach Edey each had 11.
For the most part, Purdue’s defense was significantly better, too. It held Michigan State to 20 first half points. The Spartans shot just 28% from threes ell below their season average. They did, however, hit critical shots late and hit some threes late with Purdue well in front.
As I said, things are coming together for Purdue now. The offense was incredibly balanced and flowed well for longer stretches today than yesterday against Penn State. The Boilers survived a rough and tumble game, and can now add some hardware to the trophy case if they get a third win over Iowa this year. A No. 2 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament is also on the table.
See you tomorrow afternoon!