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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, February 10, 2018 5:10 pm

Halftime: Purdue 36, Michigan State 31

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Before the game I mentioned that Purdue is one of the few teams that can keep up with Michigan State if the game becomes a track meet. Well, that's exactly what's happened here. Especially early, this game has been played at a frenetic pace, with both teams shooting early in possessions.

The Boilermakers raced out to an early lead thanks to some hot shooting, to go along with some sloppy play from the Spartans. I was watching to see whether there would be any hangover from the Ohio State loss, but there was none. Purdue came out ready to play from the first defensive possession, when it tipped two straight passes out of bounds. 

Michigan State had some bad luck in the first few minutes as forward Nick Ward, who leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game, went to the bench with an injured ankle just three minutes into the game. He didn't return until the 12-minute mark and in his absence, senior Gavin Schilling had trouble guarding Isaac Haas down low. Haas finished with eight points on 4-for-8 shooting in the half.

In addition to running good offense inside, Purdue shot well from beyond the 3-point line, much better than it has in recent games. Midway through the half, Carsen Edwards and P.J. Thompson drilled 3's on back-to-back possessions to put the Boilers up 25-16, their largest lead of the game at that point. Purdue finished 6 of 14 from beyond the arc, with four different players making at least one 3. 

Late in the half, however, Michigan State stepped up the pressure on the perimeter, and Purdue's shots stopped falling. An 8-0 Spartan run cut the Purdue lead to one while the Boilermakers went scoreless for over three minutes, missing six straight shots. Carsen Edwards finally broke the run with his second triple of the half. He led the Boilers with 10 points in the first 20 minutes.

One interesting development in the opening half was the complete ineffectiveness of Spartan freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. The Big Ten's leading shot-blocker did not have any rejections in the half and was never asked to guard Haas down low. He only took one shot and his lack of influence on defense has to be considered a win for Purdue, which I expected to have trouble with his length.

The Boilers shot 43 percent in the half and are still leading, which is a testament to how well their defense has played. After he came back in, Ward was solid, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds. The Spartans' leading scorer, Miles Bridges, had nine points, but the Spartans struggled from the outside (2 for 8 from beyond the arc), and the crowd was mostly kept out of the game. 

At halftime, this is Purdue's game to lose.