Purdue, coming off a blowout victory against their rival, was flying high with the Spartans coming into town. To make matters worse, the Spartans were coming off their worst loss of the season, a home loss to Nebraska. Well, the Spartans put the bad loss in their rearview and went into Mackey and dominated the Boilers. Michigan State almost scored an unprecedented 100 points in a Big Ten game, falling just a little short, and having to settle for a 15 point victory: 94-79.
Three Point Shooting
Adreian Payne and the Spartans took off firing. Payne had 8 points and 2 three-pointers in the first 3 minutes 37 seconds of the game. Payne and the Spartans continued to hit throughout, making 17 three-pointers, a school-record. Payne got the Spartans started from beyond the arc, but Harris took over from there. Harris ended up with 6 three-pointers, so much for that slump. Harris ended up with a game high 25 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and yes, 3 turnovers. Payne finished the game with 4 three-pointers, 23 points, and 4 rebounds. It wasn’t just the stars playing well, the team shot 58% from the floor and 53% from beyond the arc.
The Floor General Returns
Keith Appling made his return, for the second time, last night against Purdue. Spartan fans had a stressful week, hearing Appling may be out the rest of the season and then the very next day were told he magically healed over night and would play against Purdue. Well Spartan fans, he played, but didn’t look healthy. He only attempted 1 field goal in his 25 minutes of action. Appling needs to get healthier and be more of an offensive threat for this team to achieve what they want to in March.
Appling may have looked injured, but he was still very effective. It’s no coincidence Harris went into his shooting slump when Appling went to the bench with injury and comes out of his slump the game Appling returns. A good point guard makes everyone else on his team better, and Appling does that. Appling finished the game with 9 assists and 4 rebounds. His solid point guard play allows the offense to run smoother and gets everyone sharing the ball; MSU finished the game with 26 assists on 30 field goals made compared to Purdue’s 12 assists on 24 field goals made.
Appling wasn’t the only good point guard for the Spartans last night. Trice ended up with 4 three’s, 14 points, 6 assists, and only 1 turnover. With Appling out, Trice has been solid with the ball, proving he can play valuable point guard minutes without turning the ball over. If Appling continues to struggle shooting, Trice may be the better option. However, I don’t think Trice will ever be able to lead the Spartans to the success they are striving for this postseason, a healthy Appling will be critical to making a deep tournament run.
I have been critical of Valentine in the past, but he made me eat my words last night. He played a phenomenal game on both ends of the court. Valentine finished the game with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and most importantly, 0 turnovers. It’s great to see Valentine play within himself and control the ball, when he does that he is a valuable contributor to the Spartans. He’s always been a good passer, and last night he had 4 assists; that number could have been more with a few more finishes around the rim by his teammates.
Michigan State had a great performance against Purdue, but now is no time to celebrate. The game of the year in the Big Ten is this Sunday when Michigan State travels to arch rival Michigan. Currently Michigan State sits in first place and Michigan in second, but the winner of Sunday’s game will have the lead in the conference standings. Michigan is looking to sweep the season series over the Spartans. After Sunday’s marquee matchup, the Spartans play Illinois and Iowa at home.
Purdue was hoping to get a more competitive matchup between Hammons and Payne, but it didn’t happen. Hammons was relatively quiet for the night, only playing 19 minutes and finishing with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 turnovers. Purdue was led off the bench by freshman Kendall Stephens who finished with a career high 19 points, and 4 three-pointers of his own. Ronnie Johnson chipped in 17 points.
Things don’t get easier for Purdue coming up; they travel to a hot Nebraska team on Sunday and then host Michigan and then go on the road to face Iowa.