Spartans hold on to upset No. 4 Purdue in much-needed 68-65 victory


Michigan State men’s basketball point guard Tyson Walker shoots the game-winning 3-pointer against Purdue at the Breslin Center on Feb. 26, 2022/Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Michael Markoch, Women's Basketball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING – After an 86-60 trouncing at the hands of the No. 25 Iowa Hawkeyes on Tuesday, the Michigan State Spartans returned home to take on the conference-leading and No. 4-ranked Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday. Behind arguably their best all-around performance of the season, the Spartans came away with a 68-65 upset win on a Tyson Walker game-winning three-pointer with just over one second remaining.

The win was Spartans head coach Tom Izzo’s 662nd win at MSU, tying legendary head coach Bob Knight for most wins ever at a Big Ten school.

“Today we earned our win, it wasn’t lucky, I thought we earned it from the get-go, from the start to the finish,” Izzo said.

This hard-fought game started with what must have been a welcome sign for Izzo and the rest of the Spartans as senior forward Gabe Brown got going early, knocking down two of his first three 3-point attempts and scoring six early points. Coming into the contest, Brown had only scored 19 total points in his last five games combined.

MSU men’s basketball’s Gabe Brown celebrates during the Spartans’ contest against Purdue at the Breslin Center on Feb. 26, 2022/Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

“I always work on my shot each and every day,” Brown said. “I had had a little slump of my own, like everybody else, but like I always said, the work is always going to show up and I just kept shooting, my teammates kept finding me and I kept believing in my shot.”

It was clear early on the Spartans had more energy than they’ve had in recent games, and it was similar to the energy the team played with early in the season, but this time felt different; this time felt special. The Spartans got off to a 55% (6-for-11) shooting start from the floor. Six Spartans had at least one basket in the first 10 minutes, and MSU led 18-14 halfway through the first half.

Izzo credited some of the change in energy to forward Mady Sissoko, who only played four minutes in the game, but Izzo said Sissoko “brought something and the team just rallied around him.”

The rest of the first half brought multiple lead changes and high-quality offensive play on both ends. MSU continued to shoot at a high percentage, especially from the perimeter (6-for-10 from 3-point range) in the half, and Purdue conversely hammered the ball down low in the post.

Purdue had its biggest advantage in the paint with sophomore Zach Edey and senior Trevion Williams coming in as one of the most prolific big-man duos in the entire country. Edey, standing at 7-foot-4, had a dominant first half, scoring 15 points in 10 minutes of action to pace the Boilermakers.

Despite Edey’s efforts, MSU held on to a 35-33 lead at the halftime break. Brown led the Spartans with eight points, and freshman Max Christie was right behind him with seven. Purdue shot 13 free throws in the first half compared to MSU’s three, and that disparity was a key reason the Boilermakers were able to battle back in the first half.

Michigan State men’s basketball’s Malik Hall and Max Christie box out an opponent in the Spartans’ win over Purdue at the Breslin Center on Feb. 26, 2022/Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

MSU’s defense came out of the locker room on a mission. In the first four minutes of the half, it forced five Purdue turnovers, which MSU capitalized on by pushing the lead back to six points. Halfway through the second half, Purdue had more turnovers than it did in the entire first half with eight.

Julius Marble II surprisingly got the start for MSU in this one over Marcus Bingham Jr., and in the second half, he showed why it may have been the right decision. Along with his stifling defense on Edey and Williams down low, Marble erupted for eight points in the first 10 minutes of the second half on perfect 4-for-4 shooting. This included an individual 6-0 run that helped the Spartans gain their largest lead of the game at 55-44 with just over 10 minutes to go.

But, the Boilermakers would not go quietly. The No. 4 team in the country responded with a quick 7-2 run to pull back within six. Edey continued his spectacular afternoon with 10 more points in the second half, giving him 25 for the game.

Purdue sophomore guard Jaden Ivey was held in relative check throughout the game. The expected top-five draft pick and Naismith Award Watch-List nominee was only able to muster 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting, but made some key buckets in the second half to thwart MSU runs.

Purdue pulled within a single point with just over two minutes left in the game. The teams would trade baskets within the final minutes as MSU clung to its slight advantage. 

Ivey drew a foul with 51 seconds left in the game and proceeded to knock down only the first of two free throws to bring the Boilermakers even, 63-63. But a Boilermaker foul on the rebound would send Marble to the line for MSU immediately afterwards. Marble made both free throws to put the Spartans back up by two.

But Purdue once again had an answer. Williams, who had a good second half with eight points, finished a layup to tie the game up at 65. On the ensuing possession, the Spartans would take a timeout with 16 seconds left with an opportunity to hold for the final shot of the game.

And then, with 1.4 seconds on the clock, Walker stepped back and drilled a 3-pointer over Williams to give MSU the lead for good. Walker had been relatively quiet all afternoon, finishing with only eight points, but none bigger than the final three.

Michigan State men’s basketball’s Julius Marble II and Max Christie celebrate with Tyson Walker after his game-winning shot over Purdue at the Breslin Center on Feb. 26, 2022/Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

“We wanted the ball in (Walker’s) hands because we thought he could get a shot,” Izzo said. “When he came off the screen he was open and give him credit, he knocked it down.”

Brown led the Spartans with 13 points, Marble chipped in with 12. Edey had 25 and Ivey had 16 for the Boilermakers. Purdue came into the game allowing opponents to shoot an average of 34% from 3-point range this season. The Spartans shot 45% (9-for-20) from behind the arc within their 47% (27-for-57) effort for the game. On the flipside, Purdue went 1-for-9 from 3-point range and committed 17 turnovers.

“We’re still not talented enough to overcome a bunch of mistakes,” Izzo said. “We have to play, our line is very fine and that’s okay, it’s been that way a lot of years.”

With the upset victory, MSU improves to 19-9 (10-7) and Purdue falls to 24-5 (13-5). The Spartans next game will be on March 1 in Ann Arbor against the Michigan Wolverines.