A weekend full of puzzling outcomes in the Big Ten continued Sunday as unranked Purdue knocked off No. 8 Michigan State 71-42. The Boilermakers became the fourth team from within the conference to win as an underdog over the weekend, joining Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin. This was the only outcome of the four, however, that didn’t feel like an underdog won.
Purdue went wire-to-wire in leading the Spartans in an impressive, thorough beatdown. The Boilermakers jumped out to a 19-4 lead early and led by as many as 22 points in the first half and 29 in the second, putting enough cushion in the lead early to make it an insurmountable deficit for Michigan State. Sparty did make it mildly interesting by cutting the lead to 11 in the second half, but Purdue fed off the energy of the home crowd and never flinched as it cruised to the victory.
Purdue’s win is impressive on its own, but its energy all the more so considering Thursday it went to two overtimes before falling 84-78 to Michigan — the second consecutive Big Ten loss for the Boilermakers. Michigan State also played Thursday but took care of Minnesota 74-58 in regulation. Based off how each team came out Sunday, you’d have thought Michigan State was the one coming off a double-OT outing and not Purdue. Sparty looked flat and lethargic early, struggling to generate offense while Purdue made shot after shot in a game that felt and looked more like a 40-minute party than anything.
Purdue big man Trevion Williams posted a career-high 36 points in the loss to the Wolverines and picked up where he left off against Michigan State. He scored a game-high 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, adding seven rebounds and four assists — all team-highs. Evan Boudreaux added 11 points and Sasha Stefanovic scored 10 points.
The stars for Michigan State didn’t shine in the same way they have of late, which played a big role in Purdue’s success. Preseason Player of the Year frontrunner Cassius Winston scored just 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting, going 0-fer from the 3-point line on five attempts. Xavier Tillman, Sparty’s big man who has averaged 18.3 points and 11.25 rebounds in his last four outings, managed just eight points and eight boards.
The loss snaps Michigan State’s eight-game winning streak that dated back to early December and hands it a first tally in the loss column in league play (5-1). Purdue improves to .500 in league play (3-3), snapping its two-game losing skid with an emphatic victory. Let’s have a look now at some of the biggest takeaways from the Big Ten upset on Sunday.
1. Purdue’s hot and cold home/road splits: Purdue is one of the toughest teams in the Big Ten to crack this season. It has looked top-15 quality, like it did Sunday in a dominant win over a top-10 team, and it has looked lethargic in baffling losses to Nebraska and Illinois.
The way in which those losses came are all the more confounding: Purdue lost 63-37 to Illinois just a week ago and 70-56 to Nebraska a month ago. Neither were close. Most teams in college hoops are better at home than on the road, but the contrast when you look at Purdue’s splits are pretty jarring. This team’s got to find a way to escape with a few roadies. If it can’t, it may be looking at missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.
2. Purdue finding its balance: As a member of the USA U10 men’s national team last summer, it was evident Trevion Williams was headed for a sophomore star turn. He helped lead the team to a gold medal by averaging 8.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, including a 17/12 outing against Latvia. The flashes of stardom were real. Now, just in time for the meat of league play, he’s realizing some of that talent. Purdue is unleashing him and giving him more freedom in its offense, and the results the last two games — a near-road upset of Michigan and an outright upset of Michigan State — suggest Williams will continue to be the focal point of the offense.
3. Nothing working for Sparty: It can happen to bad teams, and it can happen to good teams: bad outings are bound to come about. For Sparty, they picked a bad day to have a bad day. They hit a season-low two 3-pointers (ot of 16 attempts), hit just 35.3% from the field, and committed 18 turnovers — all season-worst stats.
Even for a Hall of Fame coach that’s been around in this role since the mid-90s, it was up there amongst the all-time brutal performances.
“Probably the worst beating I’ve taken as a coach,” said Izzo after the game, who added that Purdue’s resolve after a double OT loss several days ago was “Gene Keady-ish.”
“I give them a lot of credit,” Izzo added. “They were a little desperate after a tough loss at Michigan and after getting beat like they did against Illinois. It doesn’t surprise me that Matt [Painter] would do this.”