By Drew Hansen | @UnorthodoxDrew
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — With a trip to face top-seeded Maryland on the line, Purdue withstood a late Michigan State comeback, winning 72-63, thanks to their star trio each scoring in double figures.
Ae’Rianna Harris, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, scored 15 points with 10 rebounds and seven blocks. Junior guard Karissa McLaughlin scored 17 points and dished out seven assists, while playing all 40 minutes. Senior guard Dominique Oden added another 15 on a team-high 70% field goal percentage.
Purdue now holds a 5-1 advantage over Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament, and advanced to the quarterfinals for the fourth time in six years. The Boilermaker onslaught came early and often, and the Spartans never had a lead.
Purdue took the opening tip, and Harris went to work, scoring the teams first four points and dishing out an assist to McLaughlin for a wide-open 3-pointer. Michigan State sophomore guard Nia Clouden countered with four points of her own, but Harris scored two more, added a block and a vicious rebound before Michigan State called its first timeout after the six-minute mark.
It wasn’t long before the third member of Purdue’s star trio, Oden, found her groove, pouring in six points, and adding a steal on the other end. By the end of the first, Purdue held a 20-11 advantage, and was outshooting Michigan State by 23%.
The second started with both teams trading empty possessions as they made their adjustments after the break. But soon, Oden scored the first two points of the quarter, and Harris added two more blocks within the first two minutes. Freshman guard Moira Joiner drained a three for Michigan State to swing the momentum, but before long Harris redirected her fourth and fifth blocks away from the basket.
McLaughlin picked up where she left off in the first, and stroked two more threes before the quarter ended. Sophomore guard Cassidy Hardin followed suit with a 3-pointer of her own. Purdue held a 37-26 halftime lead despite missing six shots from the charity stripe, and being outrebounded by seven.
Harris opened the third with another two points, and Oden intercepted a full-court pass to kill an MSU fast break. Joiner hit her second 3-pointer of the game, but exited the game due to an apparent ankle injury. Clouden picked up the slack on their next possession, scoring her 12th points off a crafty contested layup.
Even though Joiner returned to the court before the end of the third and even managed to add two more points. Michigan State still trailed by 15 at the end of the third, thanks in part to shooting an even 20% for the quarter.
Harris sent back her seventh block in the opening minute of the fourth, and junior Jenelle Grant joined the block party, denying her second of the game. Although Michigan State senior guard Shay Colley went three-for-three in the first five minutes, dropping their deficit to nine.
Colley converted an and-one after Oden started things off with a two, but Clouden stole Purdue’s next possession to run the floor for an easy layup. McLaughlin quieted the MSU side with consecutive mid-range jumpers, but freshman guard Julia Ayrault sunk a three to bring MSU back within single digits in the last 90 seconds.
“We knew they weren’t going to lay down and give it to us, obviously,” said Purdue sophomore guard Kayana Traylor. “They played for their seniors, just like we did, so we knew we had to play the whole 40 minutes.”
After playing the foul game, Taryn McCutcheon scored five points in 15 seconds and brought the Spartans within six. But soon their fate was sealed as the clock wound down.