Michigan State can't contain Zach Edey, falls again to No. 1 Purdue
West Lafayette, Ind. — It’s clear, there’s no simple rule to follow when playing Purdue.
The Boilermakers are the No. 1 team in the nation for a reason, and that reason is a 7-foot-4, 300-pound monster in the middle that not only can bully nearly any player that tries to guard him, but also has a shooting touch and the skill to light up even the toughest defensive game plan.
Michigan State was reminded of that again on Sunday, the second meeting with the top-ranked Boilermakers in just less than a week.
BOX SCORE: Purdue 77, Michigan State 61
This time, Zach Edey went off for a career-high 38 points on 15-for-24 shooting with 13 rebounds to lead Purdue to the 77-61 victory at Mackey Arena. Combine that with the 32 he had in Purdue’s one-point win in East Lansing, and that’s a massive amount of production to overcome.
“The whole year, that was probably the most disappointing defensive performance that we’ve had,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We just did not do a good job. If one player gets 70 points in two games you can’t blame the players. You’ve got to blame the coach. We tried to do different things, tried to double him with different people and then they’d hit a 3 right after that. We just couldn’t cover him and didn’t cover him.
“I know there’s people that want us to double him and give up 3s and then we’ve got people that want to not give up 3s. We tried both and neither one worked. So give them credit.”
To be fair, there really isn’t another Zach Edey out there. The Big Ten has its share of quality big men, but Edey is unique in his size and skill. Michigan State’s Mady Sissoko, at 6-9 and 225 pounds, simply can’t match up. Neither can Jaxon Kohler or Carson Cooper.
But Izzo and the Spartans always have been leery of losing to the 3-pointer, and Purdue got several from unlikely candidates with David Jenkins hitting three, including two that bounced in off the backboard, and finishing 7-for-17 from long range.
It highlighted the difficulty in sending too many defenders at one player.
“It’s tough,” point guard A.J. Hoggard said. “We threw the book at him and for him to still put up those numbers shows how good of a player he is. I think our bigs did good job of making it tough on him at times in both games. But he figured us out and he did a good job finishing around the rim. I think we gave him our all and gave him every look, there was just nothing really to do about that.”
It helped Purdue hand Michigan State its sixth straight loss in the series at Mackey, and the Spartans have just one win in the last eight games overall.
Hoggard scored 20 for the Spartans (14-8, 6-5 Big Ten) while Jaden Akins added 12, but Tyson Walker was limited to eight points and Joey Hauser just three as the Spartans also turned the ball over 14 times and gave up 12 offensive rebounds.
“I didn't think there was any rhythm,” Izzo said. “Jaden did some good things, but when it was critical, he just, we didn't slow it down. … But we didn't get Joey going. We didn't get Tyson going very much, and those two things hurt a lot. Some of that is on us and some is our quarterback has got to know.
“But it’s a fair criticism — there was no rhythm and yet you shoot 48% and 50 from 3, it doesn't make a lot of sense.”
Edey surely made plenty of sense, though Purdue (21-1, 10-1) got help from everyone. Jenkins scored 11 while Ethan Morton had six and Trey Kaufman-Renn four, giving the Boilermakers 21 points from three players who had little impact on the first meeting.
Still, it was Edey who carried the day.
“You’d like to have more balance at times,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said, “But when you’re going against really good teams and find something that works, why go away from it? We’ve always been that way. And he’s so unselfish. When dealing with good players, they should have the right of first refusal. That doesn’t mean they have to shoot, but they need to touch the basketball.”
It was evident early Edey would have a big day as he sparked a 12-1 surge that ended with the Boilermakers up, 17-7, with 11:35 to play, a run that started with two straight buckets from Edey.
“They play super physical and they kind of foul every time and that kind of gets me going,” Edey said. “I like playing physical. I like those types of game and it kind of got me going when they started fouling and started hacking me, busted my lip in the second half. Those things got me going.”
Michigan State responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Pierre Brooks and Hoggard as the Spartans clawed their way back into the game. But after getting within four points at 19-15, Purdue responded with a 13-2 run that began with a triple from Mason Gillis and six points from Edey as the Boilermakers pushed their lead to 32-17 with 3:51 left in the first half.
It led to another critical swing in the final minutes as Michigan State trailed, 37-22, and was holding the ball for the last shot. Malik Hall was then called for an offensive foul on a screen and Purdue answered with a three at the buzzer from Jenkins.
The call on Hall Izzo incensed and he was hit with a technical foul after the half ended. The Boilermakers made the two technical free throws to begin the second half and led by 20 as the second half began.
“I guess it was a good call,” Izzo said. “We were going for the last shot and could have cut to 13 an instead they hit a three and I get a technical for questioning something. So that’s five points and that really is a seven-point swing and Purdue is too good of a team to give a seven-point swing.”
The Spartans slowly crept back in the game, though, as Hauser hit a 3-pointer at 17:35 to get Michigan State within 15 and later a 12-2 run for the Spartans, capped by a bucket at the rim from Hall, cut the Purdue lead to 53-43 with 11:45 to play.
The Spartans had two chances after that to get the deficit down to single digits, but two straight misses and a pair of missed free throws from Hoggard allowed Purdue to extend the lead to 61-45 before Akins hit a 3-pointer to make it 61-48 with 8:40 left in the game.
“To come up with empty possessions down the stretch when we were making our run kind of hurt,” Hoggard said. “They hit a three and every time we kind of started chipping away Edey would make a basket. So it was definitely difficult to get nothing on those possessions when in a position like that, down 10 with 10 minutes to go. It definitely hurt us.”
With Michigan State unable to capitalize, Purdue eventually extended the lead back to 20 with less than four minutes to play, essentially putting the game away.