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March 11, 2011
Lucas Legend puts Spartans back on the March
INDIANAPOLIS - Few gave Michigan State a chance to beat No. 2 seed Purdue, but Tom Izzo had a feeling when watching his experienced, beleaguered underdogs prepare.
"It started to happen in the walk-throughs," Izzo said.
And it carried through, for 40 of the best minutes Michigan State has played all year, ending with an improbable, dominant 74-56 victory over No. 9-ranked Purdue in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, Friday at Conseco Field House.
The victory sends MSU to the Big Ten semifinals and likely will earn the Spartans a berth in next week's NCAA Tournament. Michigan State entered the game squarely on the bubble, most likely needing a victory to get in.
Now, the Spartans are likely in. And rising with a bullet.
Izzo had a feeling.
"You get in those hotel walk-throughs and they remind me so much of the Louisville games and the different games we've played in these big events," Izzo said, in reference to the 2009 upset of Louisville, the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed, in the Regional Finals. "And these guys have been there and they kind of know what the walk-through is supposed to be like.
"This morning we had an early one, we had three of them today, and every one of them was really sharp and really attentive, film session walk-through. You really can read them, you know.
"When we played Louisville, I told my guys after the walk-through, 'We're going to beat them.' I didn't say that today, but what I felt today instead of just a player, coach, team, I felt like we were kind of all in it together, because hey, whenever you struggle it's everybody's fault, mine included. So I don't know if anybody was above anybody. I think we were all in it together, realizing we were fighting for our lives a little bit."
Kalin Lucas led the fight, with a career-high 30 points. He played with a limp, after sustaining a sprained ankle on Thursday against Iowa. He had 18 points in a tone-setting first half, as the Spartans went up 10-2 and led by double digits most of the game.
"I didn't even know how much he could play," Izzo said of Lucas. "Give him a lot of credit, not me.
"I thought he and Draymond Green came on a mission, that they were going to get some things done."
Green had 8 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 assists in helping the Spartans avenge two regular season losses to Purdue, including a 67-47 loss to the Boilermakers in East Lansing on Feb. 27.
"Kalin came up to me at our pregame meal and said, 'DayDay, let's go out there and beat them by 20,'" Green said. "I'm thinking, okay, we've got to go out here and win this game with K (Kalin) hurt, not knowing he was going to come out and score 30. That just shows his mentality, he's a warrior, and he led us tonight. We all followed his lead and we got done what he wanted to get done."
"Kalin is a warrior," said Delvon Roe. "We knew that he was going to come out and give it his all, and he was hot early. He made a lot of big shots from outside and driving to get people involved. That's what Kalin does, he's our leader, our quarterback, and we expect that from him. But the way he played through that ankle pain was phenomenal."
Lucas tied a career high with four 3-pointers for the Spartans (19-13), who greatly improved their chances of receiving an NCAA tournament bid. Michigan State had a 14-11 record on Feb. 15 and was in danger of being left out of the field after reaching the Final Four the past two years. But now the Spartans have won five of their past seven games.
"I'm just as proud of this team today, only today (laughter), as I've been in a long time, in fact years," Izzo said. "So it was a great win for us. God, Kalin was unbelievable."
Michigan State held Purdue to 37 percent shooting and out-rebounded the Boilermakers 39-25.
"I thought for the first time we went to the scouting report like never before," Izzo said. "We got a shot blocked at the end, but at our place they must have blocked ten shots, and I don't know if we got any, and here we get eight and they got one."
Purdue missed 32 shots, and the Spartans held the Boilermakers to just 2 offensive rebounds.
"There was a look in their eye this morning," Izzo said of his players. "Last night I was worried. We looked mentally fatigued. This morning I just kept harping on we've all been there before and we're better than we've been playing for a variety of reasons. But we beat a really good team tonight, and I don't think Purdue played really well. I think we had something to do with that but not everything."
JaJuan Johnson, the Big Ten player of the year, had 21 points and nine rebounds for Purdue. E'Twaun Moore added 17 points for the Boilermakers, who have lost two straight and fallen from consideration for a No. 1 seed.
"I said it the other day, if we get over the hump, and everybody said, well, we barely won last night, but we barely won against New Mexico State (last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, prior to a run to the Final Four),'" Izzo said. "These guys are battle tested in tournament time and they're battle tested with the schedule we play, and I really made that part of my pre-game speech, that we played three No. 1 teams in Texas and Ohio State and Duke, and we've been through this before, let's just go play our tail off like we know we can, and boy, we did."
The Spartans roared to a 12-4 lead in the opening minutes and kept the pressure on. Lucas' fourth 3 of the first half gave Michigan State a 32-20 lead and slowed Purdue's momentum. The Spartans made seven of 10 3-pointers in the first half to lead 37-23 at the break. Lucas had 18 points at halftime.
Purdue made just one of 10 3-pointers in the first half. Johnson was 5 of 8 from the field in the first half, but the rest of the team shot 4 for 18. Moore was 2 for 7 in the first 20 minutes.
"We knew -- when we got deep in that second half in the game, we knew we were going to win that game because we have a lot of veteran guys who have been in that situation and can pull it off," said junior forward Delvon Roe.
Roe came off the bench for 8 points and 4 blocked shots, including some loud plays in the middle stages of the second half to hold off a Purdue run.
Michigan State started the second half with a 6-0 run. Purdue coach Matt Painter was issued a technical foul for arguing with an official, and Lucas made both free throws to put the Spartans up 43-23 with 17:55 left.
Purdue went on an 11-4 run, and a basket by Terone Johnson cut Michigan State's lead to 56-46 with 9 minutes to play. The Boilermakers cut their deficit to single digits twice, but a 6-0 run by the Spartans gave them a 66-51 lead and put the game out of reach for Purdue.
"I think we proved to ourselves what kind of team we can be," Izzo said, "and I think we'll get Durrell Summers a little better and Draymond will shoot a little better, and I think we can be a little better and that's going to be the goal because I don't think Kalin will shoot like that every night."
But they needed him on this night, to ensure there will be more nights ahead, most likely in the NCAA Tournament - in what should be Michigan State's 14th straight appearance, extending the third-longest streak in the country.