Indianapolis, Ind. — It was a tale of two halves between Purdue and Michigan State in a game that featured stifling defense at the start, but ended with a flurry of scoring to decide who moved on to the Big Ten Tournament final against Iowa.
As both teams settled into the semifinal matchup Saturday inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Jaden Ivey put on a dazzling performance to push the Boilermakers past the Spartans in a 75-70 victory.
The sophomore star led all scorers with 22 points while adding nine rebounds and five assists. He capped his showing with an acrobatic layup in transition, sending the basketball from right hand to left behind his back before putting the shot off the glass while plummeting to the court.
Seniors Trevion Williams and Eric Hunter Jr. came up big down the stretch to prevent another contest from going down to the wire.
“It was more of a defensive game in the first half,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “I thought we did a really good job getting them out of rhythm and contesting their shots, making them shoot tough twos. The second half was more of an offensive game.”
However, neither team could find a rhythm early in a low-scoring first half. After struggling from the 3-point line in their first matchup against Michigan State, Purdue looked to pound the ball inside the paint.
Williams and sophomore center Zach Edey combined for 16 points for the Boilermakers before the break. But the team didn’t abandon the deep ball, finding 13 attempts from 3-point range and seeing three of them fall through the net in the first half.
Purdue only shot nine 3-pointers against Michigan State back on Feb. 26 in East Lansing and only made one. On Saturday, the team put in eight.
"We throw the ball inside a lot and as a big man, you have to be prepared for what teams throw at you," Williams said. "Obviously teams know I'm a pretty good passer, and I think the philosophy was stay home on shooters and make them score one-on-one.
"The first game we played them in East Lansing, I didn't take advantage of that opportunity as much as I wanted to. Maybe I was frustrated with the refs. Whatever it was, I just wasn't engaged I don't think. This game, I think I was more patient. I waited for things to come to me and I just think the outcome was better."
But rather than taking away the 3-point line in the rematch, Michigan State opted to collapse inside the paint, giving several opportunities for Purdue to get deep looks.
Back-to-back shots from beyond the arc, one each from Sasha Stefanovic and Mason Gillis, fueled a 12-1 scoring run to give the Boilermakers a 25-14 lead with 5:10 to play before halftime.
"We've been in a lot of situations where we end up winning close games and we end up losing close games," Ivey said. "So I think it's just we put ourselves in position to where we can win the game, and it just comes with our experience."
The Spartans, who settled for several long-range jumpers in the first half, found themselves in the midst of a field goal drought that lasted more than three minutes. Before a layup and a made dunk for Michigan State with under 1:30 before halftime, Purdue held a 14-4 scoring advantage in the paint.
The two baskets cut the Boilermakers’ lead to single digits, and they went into the locker room with a 27-20 advantage. Purdue shot just 34% from the field, and Michigan State wasn’t better, making only 30% of its shots from the floor.
But both teams put fuel to the fire in the second half, with each making more than half their shot attempts.
The Spartans tried to rally from down as many as 13 points, led by sophomore A.J. Hoggard. He scored 15 of his 17 points after the break while adding 10 assists without turning the ball over.
Time and time again, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard muscled his way into the lane but gave himself enough space to float the ball over the outstretched arms of Purdue’s centers or rifle a pass to an open teammate.
"He's a big point," Painter said. "He bullied us a couple times and got to the rim. He had that one and-one I thought kind of got him going right in front of the bench early in the second half. You can't let him get deep."
But as Michigan State brought the game to within one possession, Williams and Hunter combined to score 11 straight points for Purdue, including back-to-back makes from the 3-point line, to push the lead back to double figures.
They were two of five players that scored in double figures. Williams put up 15 points off the bench and Hunter matched Edey with 11. Gillis would end up scoring 10 for Purdue.
Even with a trio of 3-pointers by the Spartans in the final two minutes, it wasn’t enough to claw back into the game. The Boilermakers were 17-25 from the free-throw line to close it out, sending them to their first Big Ten Tournament final since 2018.
"I thought our guys, when they cut it to one, they really showed some grit — some character there to be able to make plays," Painter said. "Trevion made some really nice passes. Eric Hunter stepped up and made a couple of huge threes in that stretch. I thought that was kind of the decisive run for us to help us push the lead back out and kind of keep it there and never let them get back to two possessions."
Purdue and Iowa will tip off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET, and the game will be aired live on CBS. A win would give the Boilermakers their second-ever Big Ten Tournament title.
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