Michigan State was knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament with a 75-70 semifinal loss to Purdue.
Despite the loss, the Spartans got one of their most memorable performances of the season from sophomore guard A.J. Hoggard. Playing on a clear ankle injury, he tallied a gutsy 17 points and 10 assists, continually driving to the basket to lay blows that would keep Michigan State firmly in the mix as they chipped away on Purdue’s lead.
Sophomore guard Jaden Ivey served as the difference maker for his team with 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Far and away one of the best players in the Big Ten, he played like it against Michigan State and came up with more than a few answers for a Spartans team eager to surge back.
Neither team was lights out from deep but the Boilermakers found far more success from the perimeter than they did in their first game against the Spartans. Going 8-24 from three, Purdue got seven triples than they did in their Feb. 26 matchup in East Lansing, the complement they needed to the interior play of senior center Trevion Williams (15 points) and sophomore center Zach Edey (11 points).
After the chaotic energy of Iowa’s last-second win over Indiana subsided, things could not have started any worse for the Spartans. Senior center Marcus Bingham Jr. gave Michigan State an early 5-3 lead with a three but junior guard Tyson Walker took a tumble into the corner of the floor during an early offensive possession and left the game slowly favoring one leg.
So Hoggard entered the game in his place—only for him to start jumping up and down on one leg with another apparent injury. Freshman guard Jaden Akins subbed in for him and freshman guard Max Christie took the reins at this point as the Spartans took turns matching the offensive output of Williams in the paint in an early slugfest. Walker checked back in with 9:13 left in the half but lasted less than 45 seconds before taking himself out, leaving Hoggard as Michigan State’s one reliable option at the point.
Meanwhile, only down 15-13 with 7:29 to go in the first half, it felt like the Boilermakers could pull away for good at any moment by hitting even a few of the many open looks presented at the perimeter. Purdue started 1-9 from deep to match their three-point shooting performance on Feb. 26, but couldn’t capitalize the way they wanted to as shots rattled in, out and around the rim with Michigan State providing a minimal offensive threat.
But just like that, senior guard Sasha Stefanovic finally buried one from deep to make it 18-13. Then sophomore forward Mason Gillis got one of his own. Not even Stefanovic getting whistled for a technical could quell the momentum as Edey went to work and cleaned up a miss from Ivey to leave the Boilermakers with a 12-1 run to their name. Against a team they beat before by running upfront, the Spartans were in the type of 11-point hole that they’ve struggled to creep out of time and time again this season.
Bingham stopped the bleeding with a midrange jumper but proceeded to pick up his second foul and send Ivey to the line for two free throws to put Purdue back up 11. Late in the half, the Spartans weren’t at an insurmountable deficit, and yet, if they were going to have a shot, they needed to start climbing out then and there.
Hoggard answered this urgent call with a drive to the basket to get his team back within ten. Finding a groove, he then put up a lob over to sophomore center Mady Sissoko for an alley-oop dunk to force a halftime score of 27-20 as Purdue closed on a 3:21 minute scoring drought thanks to some missed shots and a late clampdown by the Spartans.
With Walker ruled doubtful to return at the start of the second half, Hoggard picked up right where he left off with a drive to the basket for an and-one opportunity to keep his team down seven. Ivey then proceeded to take back any momentum gained with a personal 5-0 run seemingly in the blink of an eye to keep Michigan State at arm’s length and cement himself early as one of the key players in a do-or-die closing period.
The game then took on a rhythm that was all too familiar for the Spartans in the latter half of their season: pull within ten, threaten to cut it further and then go back down double digits. Lingering on, Christie seemed to break his team out of that mold with a three to make it 45-39 with thirteen minutes left, a shot that would keep Michigan State in a spot where they’d be able to keep successfully chipping away.
Junior forward Malik Hall took the next step for them, slashing to the basket and putting up a reverse layup to cut it to 47-43 with a little over 11 minutes left. A pair of Ivey free throws served as an answer, but Hall came back with another drive to the basket to keep the deficit at four as the Spartans brought back the defensive energy that buoyed them in their win over Wisconsin in the quarterfinals.
With Purdue in another three-plus scoring drought, Hall then found junior center Julius Marble II for an alley-oop dunk to draw Michigan State back within two. Gillis got a three up and in for the Boilermakers but Hoggard quickly scored on another drive to the basket to bring the score to 52-49 with under eight minutes to go.
Hoggard then got another layup to make it 54-51 before Ivey shook Akins for a layup. Then, a three from Brown cut the Spartans’ deficit to two. A spinning layup from Hoggard put them down only one.
And then a corner three from Eric Hunter Jr. put them back down five with under five minutes to go. He got another one off on the ensuing possession to put the score at 63-56, Michigan State’s rallying comeback dying in a matter of a minute.
The Spartans knocked down a couple of late threes and fought to the end but couldn’t quite bring it close enough to give them a true shot of winning. As the buzzer sounded, Purdue advanced to the Big Ten Tournament Championship with a 75-70 win while Michigan State only has 40 more minutes guaranteed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
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