Caleb Swanigan, Purdue too much for Michigan State
West Lafayette, Ind. — Michigan State had a chance to add a road win over one of the top teams in the conference on Saturday. Instead, the Spartans were simply outmatched.
Michigan State had few answers for Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas as No. 16 Purdue completed the season sweep of the Spartans by riding its pair of big men to an 80-63 victory at a sold-out Mackey Arena.
Swanigan recorded his 23rd double-double of the season, scoring 24 and grabbing 15 rebounds while Haas added 18 points. Vincent Edwards chipped in 12 points for the Boilermakers (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten).
“Against those two guys I just pray,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “There aren’t that many teams that we’ll play that have that kind of scoring size inside if I look at it honestly. It is probably the worst possible team we could play and yet I really thought looking at the first game we had a chance if we did some things.”
Of course, those things were going to be tough before the game even began. The Spartans have been thin up front all season thanks to injuries to Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter in preseason practice. It’s forced freshman Nick Ward to grow up quickly and put 6-foot-6 sophomore Kenny Goins out of position.
On Saturday, Ward and Goins fouled out trying to contain the 6-foot-10 Swanigan and 7-2 Haas. It was frustrating for Izzo — who had the same complaints as the first meeting about the offensive player displacing the defender — and the players alike.
“It’s hard when you can’t play defense how coach wants you to play,” Ward said. “I’m not looking for a whistle. I’m not looking for a whistle at all. Let us play, you know. It’s a physical game. If you’re gonna call one at one end, call it on the other end. That’s all. I wasn’t looking for a whistle. I don’t like bailouts from either side.”
With Matt Van Dyk and Kyle Ahrens, both 6-5, trying to fill in for Goins and Ward, it became almost easy for the Boilermakers to get anything they wanted, especially in the second half.
“We want to get ball inside against anybody,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “But the way people play post defense when they’re not in foul trouble vs. when they are in foul trouble is two different things. And you’re at home. You get a little better whistle at home sometimes in post play.”
While the Spartans couldn’t slow the Boilermakers’ offense, they had as much trouble producing points on their end. Miles Bridges finished with 14 points and eight rebounds but had only three points in the first half on 1-for-5 shooting. Matt McQuaid added 11 points and Alvin Ellis scored 10 for Michigan State (16-11, 8-6 Big Ten), which entered the game having won four of its previous five games.
It was an especially frustrating performance for Bridges, who scored 33 in the first meeting.
“I feel like I was being too aggressive, turning the ball over a little bit,” Bridges said. “I just wasn’t in right places at right time.”
Purdue clearly put its focus on stopping Bridges.
“We wanted to do a better job with him not shooting 3s and he made four 3s,” Painter said. “But we also wanted to not let him get the ball in the post and just try to corral him a bit. It’s hard to do with a team like Michigan State that can shoot the ball. It was a total team effort.
“For him to only have nine attempts shows a good team effort guarding him. He a great player. He a very, very talented guy and productive and anytime you’re that big, strong, athletic and skilled it’s a tough matchup.”
It was a tight game early, but once Purdue got rolling, Michigan State did very little to slow the Boilermakers.
After Michigan State took a 14-11 lead on an Ellis 3-pointer with 12:23 to play in the opening half, Purdue outscored the Spartans 20-6 over the next nearly seven minutes to take a 31-20 lead. The Boilermakers hit three straight 3-pointers at one point in that stretch and took advantage of their size in the middle as Swanigan scored 11 in the first half and Haas had eight.
Michigan State cut the deficit to 33-26 when Ellis and McQuaid hit back-to-back 3-pointers, but four turnovers down the stretch kept the Spartans scoreless as Purdue took a 37-26 lead into the locker room.
The second half was more of the same as Michigan State appeared ready to make a surge after a Bridges 3-pointer with 13:40 to play, but the Boilermakers took over from there, scoring the next eight to take a 20-point lead and never really allowing it to get much closer.
“We’ve got to rally together,” junior guard Tum Tum Nairn said. “That’s what we’ve had to do the whole year. Like coach said, we’re a grinding team and we’re gonna just keep grinding.”