The No. 4 Michigan State Basketball team did a lot of things well to upset No. 3 Purdue at home Saturday afternoon to win 68-65.
“I think we played pretty good,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “That team (Purdue) is destined for something great.”
Michigan State made a lot of timely shots Saturday afternoon. None was bigger than three of Miles Bridges’s team-high 20 points when he drove to the left-wing, pulled up, and drained a 25-footer over Purdue’s Dakota Mathias with 2.7 seconds left for the game-winner.
For the first time this season, over the course of 40 minutes they valued the basketball. The Spartans finished with six turnovers, a season low, and only committed one in the second half.
In the second half, the Spartans were masterful guarding the three-point shot. They held the number one team in the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage to not a single made shot behind the arc in the final 20-minutes.
“The key of the game was not giving up threes,” said Izzo. “The key of the game was not turning the ball over. And the key of the game was sticking to the game plan.”
Most of the positives that Michigan State did can be seen and evaluated by looking through the stat-lines. What you won’t see are the defensive efforts that two minor role-players did for the Spartans.
Kenny Goins and Gavin Schilling were the unsung heroes for Michigan State. Not for what they did on the offensive end, but for their effort defending two of Purdue’s most dynamic scorers Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards.
To fans, Schilling would have been the scapegoat if the Spartans would have fallen Purdue. Partially this was due to Tom Izzo but not for a bad reason. Michigan State’s game-plan was to let Isaac Haas “get his”. The more isolation that Haas did, the more tired he got.
“Our game plan was to give Haas some shots,” said Izzo. “You could hear the moans when they threw him the ball and he got his shot. I didn’t think 22 of them.” Haas finished with 25 points, the second most he has scored this year.
“We had a defensive scheme guarding Haas that we worked on all week in practice,” said Schilling after the win. “We wanted to play behind him and force him to take tough shots over us. That is what I tried to do. I stayed low and not give up any ground and just try to force him to make tough shots and a couple of them went in.”
“I think I did a good job. We came out with the win so that has to mean something.”
But when Haas did score, for most of the time Schilling was on the sour end of it. Once Haas was worn down during the stretch, Schilling came up big on the defensive end. In the final five minutes, Haas was limited to just four points and those came against Ben Carter who saw his only action of the game during that span.
Goins’s defense on Edwards was probably more important to defeating the Boilermakers than what Schilling did on Haas. Edwards, who is Purdue’s second-leading scorer, averaging 15 points per game, was held to just eight points. Three of the eight, came on the Boilermakers’s second possession of the game when Ward left his assignment after tweaking an ankle. In the second half he was held to just three points on one lay-up which did not come against Goins. Edwards drove, got fouled, and converted on a lay-up when Schilling was late on a switch.
Goins’s ability to step out to the perimeter and defend Edwards left Purdue’s 42 percent three-point shooter searching for answer as he finished 1-5 from behind the arc and 3-11 from the field. His effectiveness allowed him to stay on the court for a season high 30 minutes.
The memorable play from Saturday’s game will be Bridges’s game-winner as it should be. But in the long run, these timely efforts from the most unlikely sources will stand out more if Michigan State is able to reach their highest of goals.