By Seth Hine
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – Third-seeded Purdue advanced to its fifth title game in the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 75-70 victory over Michigan State at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Saturday.
Purdue (27-6) will face Iowa in the first championship meeting between the two schools in tournament history. Five Purdue players scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard Jaden Ivey, who scored 22 points with nine rebounds and five assists. “Tomorrow’s a big game for us,” Ivey said. “Obviously, not winning the regular-season championship, that was a goal of ours and we fell short. Then now tomorrow we have another opportunity to win a championship and take one home to our fans.
“You know we’ve just got to lock in tomorrow,” Ivey said, “and…read the scout and take Iowa out of what they like to do.”
Senior center Trevion Williams came off the Purdue bench to score 15 points with seven rebounds in 19:43. Sophomore center Zach Edey scored 11 points, senior guard Eric Hunter Jr. scored 11, and sophomore forward Mason Gillis added 10.
Purdue made 53.6% of its second-half shots after shooting 34.5% to take a 27-20 halftime lead.
The Boilermakers will attempt to win their second conference tournament championship and the first since 2009. Four of the five title game appearances have come under coach Matt Painter.
The Boilermakers will be looking to repeat history as their only tournament championship came as a No. 3 seed.
Purdue attempted nearly five times as many free throws as the Spartans. The Boilermakers made 17 of 25 free throws. Michigan State made three of six.
Purdue led for 35:55. Michigan State junior point guard Tyson Walker was limited to 3:17 in the first half when he left the game with an apparent ankle injury. Walker’s replacement, sophomore A.J. Hoggard, suffered an ankle injury seconds later, but was able to return and score 17 points, equaling his career high, with 10 assists.
“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.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he was both disappointed and proud. “To have two ankle injuries in 20 seconds to my two point guards was a tough situation,” he said. “Tyson couldn’t go, and give A.J. credit, he went back and got heavily taped and just did what he had to do.”
It was a strong defensive battle on both ends with Purdue managing 43 rebounds and Michigan State chalking up 35. Purdue was held to just 44% on field goals and 33% on three-pointers.
For the Spartans (22-12) the quarterfinal victory over Wisconsin had provided some hope. Michigan State had been seeded No. 1 six times and has been in the top three seeds in 15 tournaments. The frustration of a No. 7 seed, second lowest behind a ninth seed a year ago, has been replaced by optimism.
“I voice my opinion a lot of times when I’m disappointed in my team,” Izzo said. “I’m going to tell you I’m as proud of this team, what they did, and I’m chomping at the bit to get to the NCAA tournament.”