In recent weeks teams around the Big Ten have had trouble beating teams who they should statistically dominate. This was evident in Wisconsinâ€™s loss to Purdue, Illinoisâ€™ loss at home against Penn State, and Michigan Stateâ€™s narrow victory over Northwestern. As these teams come down the home stretch of the season itâ€™s all locked up, and the regular season title is up for grabs.
Luckily for Spartan fans, Michigan State was able to thrash Purdue Wednesday night, 77-52.
The first half was nothing to hang your hat on. MSU looked sluggish and it was evident that most fans in the Breslin Center thought the score was much closer than it should be. While the Spartans did shoot close to 50 percent in the first half, it was their lack of defense that allowed the Boilermakers to keep things close. They kept applying a steady dose of low-post presence with Marcus White and ended the first half shooting 56 percent. It was a dismal first half for coach Izzo and his crew and it ended with a slim 34-32 lead.
Luckily the Spartanâ€™s senior leaders took over at halftime. Senior center Paul Davis and senior forward Maurice Ager spoke to the team at the half, gave them motivation, and got the team back on track. In contrast to the first half, Michigan State came out on fire in the second half shooting just over 60 percent. The team was led by Davis, who finished with 22 points, and Ager, who was close behind with 16 points.
By the end of the game, the Spartans dominated all statistical categories. The strong play on the glass was most evident. The home team out-rebounded Purdue 38-18. This included 13 on the offensive side of the court, which was enough to create a huge lead.
The offense kicked it up a notch as well. On the 29 baskets that the Spartans made, an assist accompanied 24 of them. While coach Izzo may not have thought the game looked so hot in person, the facts on paper were encouraging.
What happened outside the Breslin Center helped the Spartans the most on Wednesday night. Iowa, who led the Big Ten, lost to Northwestern 51-48. That game, along with recent losses by Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan, put Michigan State right back in the thick of things to be at the top of the conference. At 6-3 in the Big Ten, the Spartans are tied with Illinois and Ohio State by being half a game behind the Hawkeyes.
Coach Izzo and his team were down after the loss to Michigan and thought it would be an extreme uphill battle to win the conference title. Fortunately, no game is easy in the Big Ten this year and any team can win on any given night. Michigan State now holds their fate in their own hands. Important games coming up this month will be in Iowa and finishing the season at home against Wisconsin and Illinois.