Today was the day ladies and gentlemen. It was the day we have finally been waiting for in this Big Ten season. At long last, Purdue and Michigan State battled at the Breslin Center. While some of the match-up’s luster was lost after the Boilermakers fell to Ohio State earlier this week, this game did not disappoint.
Throughout the first half, Purdue held a good advantage on both the score board and in the game as a whole. Even though Michigan State struggled defensively in the first 20 minutes, they went into the locker room down by only five. This was due to some late offensive firepower from Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston.
A back and forth contest ensued throughout the final 20 minutes. Purdue cooled down a bit offensively while Miles Bridges finally came alive for the Spartans. Some untimely Boilermaker turnovers kept Michigan State in control of the momentum. It seemed as though the team who had the ball last would end up winning. The Spartans were afforded that privilege, as Miles Bridges iced the game with a three-pointer with 2.6 seconds remaining.
Here are some closing thoughts:
What We Learned
1. Michigan State’s game plan was smart, on paper...
Tom Izzo came out of the Spartan locker room with a defensive game plan that seemed bulletproof. In essence, the plan was to single cover Isaac Haas down low in an attempt to limit the Boilermakers dangerous three-point shooting ability. Seems like a fairly decent idea on the outset, in my opinion. Sure, Haas has some nice moves, but I would not say he is an offensive force by any means.
However, what ensued could not have been further than what Izzo had thought it would be. Haas was productive when given the opportunity to go one-on-one. By game’s end, he had 25 points on 22 shot attempts. So, the idea worked in the sense that Haas could not dish it out to his three-point shooters. Yet, Haas was able to score almost at will, defeating the purpose of him needing to kick the ball out.
In the end, I suppose the Spartans only needed one stop, which they got. Gavin Schilling stopped Haas down low, giving Michigan State the ball back. The next play was the Miles Bridges three-pointer that won it. Maybe I am just crazy, but the Spartans won and maybe that is all Tom Izzo cares about. I just thought the decision not to adjust the game plan made the game closer than what it should have been.
2. Miles Bridges’ stints of passive play worry me.
Listen, I think Bridges has a rare level of talent that makes him one the most exciting players in the nation. In this game, I personally thought he was for too passive at times, especially given the defensive match-ups he was offered. Bridges ended up scoring 11 points on five of seven shooting in the first 25 minutes or so of the basketball game.
I only say this because when he did attack he was completely dominant offensively. He coasted by Dakota Mathias, who is a decent on-ball defender, for a few easy buckets. The other player who ended up guarding him was Ryan Cline. With all do respect to Ryan Cline and his talents, he has no business guarding Miles Bridges. He should have scored every single time he touched the basketball, no questions asked.
Bridges finished the second half by finally noticing the advantages he had offensively. His performance down the stretch is what gave the Spartans a chance in the end (and he won them the game too). However, one has to wonder how different the game would have been if Bridges had been in attack mode all game long. I realize that it may be a moot point, but if Bridges chooses to play passively in March, that could be the ultimate undoing of Michigan State.
3. Carsen Edwards will be Big Ten Player of the Year in the next two seasons.
The sophomore guard picked up where he left off this evening against Michigan State. Edwards scored 28 points in the Boilermaker’s loss to Ohio State, including a stretch of 11 straight points. He continued that pattern of success with another wildly impressive performance.
In the first half, Edwards capitalized on some lax ball screen defense to bury a couple of threes. The second half saw him be more aggressive and attack the rim with great vigor. It seemed that whenever Purdue was clamoring for a bucket it was Edwards, not Isaac Hass, who had the basketball in his hands.
With his savvy play style and calm demeanor it is easy to overlook the fact that this is only Edwards’ second season. It is clear he is a four-year type player, giving him two more seasons in Matt Painter’s system. That leads me to believe that Carsen Edwards will become one of, if not the best player in the Big Ten either next year or the following year. I truly believe we will be seeing the fabulous guard winning the Big Ten Player of the Year award sometime soon.
The Boilermakers have some time off before they head to Madison for a Thursday date with Wisconsin. As for the Spartans, their next game comes on Tuesday against the dismal Minnesota Gophers. Both teams have very manageable schedules as Big Ten play winds down and the conference tournament nears. However, it is clear that Michigan State now holds the advantage in the pursuit to overtake Ohio State and win the Big Ten regular season championship.