Spartans beat Purdue in a tale of two halves
It was ugly. Oh, was it ugly when Michigan State went to the locker room at Mackey Arena.
Draymond Green had only six points and was on the bench with two fouls. Branden Dawson also had six points in an arena filled with fans booing him for his decision to go to Michigan State and not Purdue. Keith Appling had no points. Purdue led 38-35.
Michigan State’s defense was blind and confused, beaten easily by Purdue’s Lewis Jackson driving to the hoop. Robbie Hummel and Ryne Smith were having their way offensively. It didn’t look good. It was ugly.
The bright spot: Austin Thornton had nine first-half points and was keeping MSU in the game, despite reports that he was ill.
After halftime? An entirely different story.
The Spartans buckled down defensively with such intensity and ferocity that Purdue hit just one of its first 23 shots from the field in the second half.
Thornton stayed consistent (gasp) and finished with a career-high 17 points.
Green showed up in big ways, after Tom Izzo pulled him aside at halftime and challenged him. He fell three assists short of a triple double, with 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Dawson stepped up and had his third double-double: 15 points, 11 rebounds. And he did this …
Yup. He did THAT. To the crowd which booed, jeered and sneered, he threw down a monstrous windmill dunk off little more than a step.
Appling, after scoring 20 points against Wisconsin, fought his way to seven points. More important, he had five assists and just one turnover.
But it wasn’t just that the Spartans won — it was what the win meant and what it showed.
They now sit alone atop the Big Ten, a game ahead of both Michigan and Ohio State.
They now have won at Wisconsin, at Ohio State and at Purdue. The last time that happened was in the 1997-98 season.
And it showed the heart of a championship-caliber team. MSU displayed the resolve to take the punches Purdue kept throwing and get right back up. It is that which separates the good from the great. It is that which can continue to make this season something great.
After all, good is the enemy of great. The second half is West Lafayette sent the message loud and clear: The Spartans want to be much more than good.