INDIANAPOLIS — For the third time in the last five seasons, the Michigan State Spartans are the Big Ten Tournament champions.
Is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament next?
The Spartans held off an incredible second-half charge from the Purdue Boilermakers in Sunday's championship game, pulling out a 66-62 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
After bursting away from Purdue in the first half, closing the period on a 20-7 run, Michigan State led by as many as 13 in the second half, only for the Boilers to return the favor with an 18-6 run to come within a point. But the Boilers made just one basket the final seven and a half minutes of the game as the Spartans held on for the victory.
Michigan State struggled offensively to start the game. Between Purdue's defense and its own poor shooting, Michigan State struggled to get going. But the score stayed close, the Boilers' lead never growing bigger than four as neither the standard feed-the-post or 3-point strategies were working all that well. After plenty of basket trading, Purdue had a 19-16 lead with under eight minutes to go until halftime. But that's when the Spartans clamped down on defense, silencing the Boilers' offense while going on an extended run, sparked by Michigan State reserves. Backup big men Gavin Schilling and Colby Wollenman each got a bucket, then a Marvin Clark offensive rebound turned into a Denzel Valentine 3-pointer that made it a 9-0 run and saw the Spartans with a six-point lead. Rapheal Davis' three-point play momentarily stopped the bleeding, but then Michigan State rattled off seven more points in a blink, two buckets from Matt Costello and a 3 from Alvin Ellis, making it a 10-point lead, which touched 12 before getting back to 10 by halftime.
All in all, it was a 20-7 run to close the half by Michigan State. Purdue made just one basket the final almost eight minutes of the half, making one of the last 12 shots it took. The Boilers finished the opening 20 minutes with a 33.3-percent shooting mark, while the Spartans warmed up enough to shoot 41.2 percent in the first half. Purdue was 0-for-7 from 3-point range, with Michigan State holding a 24-17 rebounding advantage and getting 16 of its 36 points from its bench.
After some basket trading to begin the second half — which featured Michigan State reaching its biggest lead of the game at 13 on a Clark triple — Purdue roared back. The Boilers scored eight straight, and though the Spartans got their lead back to eight not long after, five straight points from Johnny Hill and an electrifying A.J. Hammons dunk capped an extended 18-6 run to bring Purdue within a point at 52-51 with under eight minutes to go. Bryn Forbes, who had a generally cold week in Indy, hit his first 3 of the game at a crucial moment, and the Spartans once more toughened up on the defensive end. The Boilers went more than four minutes from Hammons' dunk without making a shot, hitting six free throws in that span. But it allowed Michigan State to create a bit of breathing room, Eron Harris hitting a 3 and Wollenman slamming home a huge putback dunk off a questionable Costello 3-point attempt.
But Purdue kept coming, another Hammons dunk snapping that basket-less drought, with his free throw making it a two-point game, 62-60, with about three and a half minutes remaining. After Rapheal Davis split a pair of free throws, Valentine made a sensational jumper to put his team up three. Edwards split a pair of free throws to cut it to two, and Purdue got a stop. But Caleb Swanigan cast up a questionable 3-pointer that was way off the mark, and the Spartans took over with 26.1 seconds remaining. Costello missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to give the Boilers life, and Hill got all the way to the hoop but Costello flew in from behind and blocked the layup attempt. Forbes then knocked down a pair of free throws to make it a four-point game and seal the deal.
Purdue was shut down over the final seven and a half minutes, making just one basket and going 1-for-10 over that span. The Boilers finished the game with a 38.2-percent shooting mark. Purdue actually out-shot Michigan State in the second half, but the Spartans finished the game at 41.7 percent from the field. The Spartans dominated the rebounding battle, 41-31, getting 14 second-chance points on 12 offensive rebounds. The Michigan State bench outscored the Purdue bench, 21-14.
Valentine was the only Michigan State player to score in double figures, finishing with 15 points to go along with his 10 rebounds and nine assists. Five other players scored at least five points.
Edwards was sensational for Purdue with 19 points. Hammons and Swanigan both finished with 11 points.