Walker injury tough blow to Spartans in preparation for next week’s NCAA Tournament

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Indianapolis – Fourteen seconds was all it took to throw a wrench into Michigan State’s chances against Purdue on Saturday in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

Now, there’s concern that the ankle injury suffered by point guard Tyson Walker might linger, creating problems for the Spartans as they prepare for next week’s NCAA Tournament.

Hobbled Spartans lose Big Ten semifinal, look ahead to NCAA Tournament

Walker was injured 2:25 into Purdue’s 75-70 victory when he was racing up the court with the ball and stepped on a Purdue defender, rolling his left ankle over before crashing to the floor. He was replaced by A.J. Hoggard, who suffered a similar injury to his left ankle just 14 seconds later.

While Hoggard sucked it up, got retaped and played a career-high 34 minutes, Walker had no such luck. After going to the locker room, Walker checked back into the game with 9:22 to play but was back out at the 8:30 mark.

He went to the bench and put his head in his hands. By halftime, he was listed as doubtful to return and sat as Hoggard played the entire second half.

“I don't know how bad it is,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “It's not broke or anything, but it's bad enough where it will be some time here and that's just disappointing.”

How much time is the critical.

BOX SCORE: Purdue 75, Michigan State 70

Michigan State will find out its NCAA Tournament seeding and schedule on Sunday night, and drawing a Friday-Sunday first- and second-round site would be ideal, giving Walker as much time as possible to heal.

If he’s at all limited, it will be a tough blow for the Spartans as Walker has been coming into his own over the last few weeks. He hit the game-winner over Purdue two weeks ago, and in the victories over Maryland and Wisconsin at the Big Ten tournament, he made multiple big shots in the final minutes to help the Spartans win.

If Walker can’t play, that puts more pressure on Hoggard while freshmen Max Christie and Jaden Akins could be forced to handle the ball more.

As for Hoggard, he, too was hurt, but said he forced himself to gut it out.

“I knew Tyson was injured,” Hoggard said. “I'm still a little hurt, but one of us had to play and I wasn't going to let my seniors down like that, so I kind of put my mind to it and forgot that I was hurt until you just said something about it. But I just wanted to play hard for my guys and just give my all for it. Tyson couldn't go, so I just had to do what I had to do.”

Even injured, Hoggard was at his best on Saturday, scoring 17 points and handing out 10 assists while not committing a turnover.

But if Michigan State expects to make a run starting next week, getting Walker is essential.

“Hats off to Hoggard,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Think about our loss. Tyson Walker makes a huge shot and beats us and now he gets hurt and gets out of the game. So I think you got to keep that in perspective for Michigan State. They didn't have one of their key guys.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau