Sparty No! Valentine's Foul Lifts Boilers Past MSU, 82-81
As we've seen once before, Purdue came out to defend home court like they had a ten-run rule in basketball and they wanted the Spartans to go home early. The sequence that typified the first half was this one: after an Eron Harris missed three, Isaac Haas couldn't get the rebound because one arm was being held, the Spartans got it, fed it to Harris ... who clanged the dunk and fell out of bounds. Gifted with a 5-on-4, Ryan Cline got it down to the Captain, who sank a three. That six-point swing put the Boilers up 30-14 and gave Davis a 3-point lead himself on Sparty.
As we've seen once before, Purdue came out in the second half like they had already sent the Spartans home and this was just a shootaround. Open shots, fast breaks off Boilers being slow to get back, Spartans open on cuts because Purdue rotates and moves slowly, and the usual array of atrocious calls took Purdue's 18-point lead, burned it, buried the ashes, and planted a tree over it. Fortunately for the Good Guys, the tree withered and died at the 1:59 mark of the second half - MSU was up 72-68 after two Kenny Goins free throws, but would not score again until the 2:43 mark in OT, when Bryn Forbes hit a two that drew MSU within two. Despite being given a bonus point for existing or something (I suppose I shouldn't complain; of the two key reviews, the refs got the big one right and missed the little one), Michigan State never led in OT, and a huge foul on Denzel Valentine with 5 seconds left gave Davis the chance to tie his career high. His 24th point put Purdue up one, and when AJ HAMMONS (autocorrect likes to spell it that way) grabbed the rebound of Davis' miss, that was that.
Yeah, you're stuck with me this week. I got this one, the Michigan men's game Saturday, the Michigan women's game Sunday, and I guess they'll make me talk about the Wisconsin women's game yesterday, but for now, LET'S TALK WINNING HOOPS.
Rapheal Davis: a team- and career-tying-high 24 points, 17 in the first half, a laser-like 6 of 8 from the arc (which offset his pedestrian 2 of 14 from inside), 7 boards, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and I think he was also selling programs at halftime, or maybe saving baby kittens or something.
AJ HAMMONS: 19 points, 13 rebounds, 8 blocks, only 3 fouls, and countless times where he was hammered by the Spartans' inside "game". Let's also mention 7 of 9 from the line, which was huge in a one-point overtime win.
And ... well. You knew what Michigan State would bring to the table: skilled bigs, a talented point who can do anything, a coach who can handle just about any situation you put him in, plus more grabbing, clutching and holding than when SEC coaches hear about a satellite camp, a coach who's never seen his team commit any foul ever, and moving screens that defy my ability to describe with analogies. Sure enough, the Spartans used all that and more to create the drama that, for a change, ended up as a Purdue win ... but once again, the same problems that stopped the Boilers from beating top opponents nearly cost them this win as well.
- Slow defense. Time and time again, the Boilers either didn't get back in time or found themselves chasing a Spartan toward the basket. When MSU couldn't hit anything in the first half, it didn't matter much. When they found their range in the second, it stopped Purdue from putting together a run to slow the rally.
- Shot selection. Biggie was 0 for 2 from three, which I'm sure you can read about on Twitter. I'll cut him a bit more slack because of the next bullet point, but he's got to put himself in positions to hit makeable shots, and those threes are generally not makeable shots. He's 4 for 23 in Big 14 play and 4 for 19 in Tier A games (kenpom top-50 opponents, adjusted for game location). Given his accuracy inside the arc (.493 total, .463 conference, .439 Tier A) and near the rim (.830 at the rim vs. .315 on two-point jumpers), the only time he should be taking those shots in my opinion is when it's either that or a shot clock violation (btw, he is 2 for 3 on threes with 5 or less on the shot clock this season). SEGUE
- MOVEMENT ON OFFENSE. It's pretty clear on a regular basis that the Boilers just don't have guys who can create their own shots. If their opponents can play sound defense, then you can count on 20-25 seconds going by with nothing much happening, then a late shot from whoever is stuck with the ball. On two key possessions - the last one in regulation, tied at 72, and the penultimate one in overtime, with Purdue up 81-79 - the Boilers got nothing. Swanigan put up a 22-footer with :06 on the shot clock (which I think he was right to do; it gave the Boilers time to get the board, which they did), and Davis put up an awkward three with :02 on the shot clock (at least from the PBP). It's hard to tell how much of this is guys not doing what they need to do and how much is Painter not doing ... well, something, but let's just say there's enough blame for everyone to take some.
- Turnovers. Fifteen doesn't seem like a lot in 45 minutes, but the Spartans only had eight. This is not a typical Purdue team because they do not force turnovers, and this is exactly why it's a problem. MSU had 16 more shots tonight despite being outrebounded by 2. Some of that was the difference in fouls (17 to 26, something I'm sure Izzo is still whining about) and free throws (29 to 15 in favor of the Good Guys), but some of it was Purdue killing a possession by not taking care of the ball. They are not good enough to burn 18 percent of their possessions and still beat good teams.
For as terrible as the refs were, they deserve plenty of credit for calling a foul on Valentine in a situation like that. It doesn't quite make up for some of the more egregious calls, but it is worth mentioning that despite all the fouls called when MSU had the ball, Purdue put the Spartans in a bad position and fouled out two of their players by continuing to go inside again and again, forcing the refs to call fouls. That's a pleasant change from other games, where it seemed like refs were calling inside fouls while Purdue kept settling for outside shots. Also AJ HAMMONS. FEED THIS MAN. (Caleb as well, because when he goes to the basket, he has the same instincts.)
Not sure what's up with Haas, but I don't think I've seen him move toward the basket on a shot in 3-4 games. I mean, yeah, playing against AJ in practice probably does some of that, but Gavin Schilling is not AJ. Post up these fools and posterize them!
Purdue PGs: 4-6 from two, no threes, 2-2 at the line, 4 assists. Add that to Cline and Mathias not being open much (2 for 2, both from three, but in 28 minutes), and you're basically playing 3 on 5 at the offensive end. This is partly why we're booing Swanigan for taking threes. No, that's not his shot, but Davis gave him the ball, Hammons isn't open, and the other two guys are blanketed. Expect more teams to sag off the backcourt and Swanigan until the Good Guys fix this.
Are there better things than watching a late foul on Michigan State effectively cost them the game? Yes: watching them give up an offensive rebound to seal the game. (To MSU's credit, they did not foul Hammons at the end.)
The Old Gold and Black travel to Crisler Center Saturday; like Purdue, Michigan has shown a general inability to beat better teams (other than a win over Maryland in January), but unlike Purdue, they've been doing that without their best player, Caris LeVert. LeVert may return Wednesday against mid-major Minnesota but still might not play in Ann Arbor, and if he doesn't, Purdue may well be favored in that game.
Michigan State returns home to face Indiana Sunday. Most of our readers will no doubt be rooting for what should certainly be a Spartan victory, especially given IU's conference schedule to date (their conference SOS is .6467, far away from the second-easiest schedule, OSU's .7277), but as for me, I'll be hoping for an eight-OT game in which everyone fouls out and both teams are disqualified from conference play for the rest of the season. (You can take the kid out of Ann Arbor ... but don't worry, I'll be a Purdue fan this weekend!)
Feature image from Purdue Sports. Not pictured: two Spartans likely fouling AJ on the play