Spartans go small down the stretch, come up short against Boilermakers

Coach Tom Izzo opted to stick with 6-foot-9 Joey Hauser and 6-7 Malik…

Spartans go small down the stretch, come up short against Boilermakers

Matt Charboneau
| The Detroit News

Spartans go small down the stretch, come up short against Boilermakers 1

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MSU’s Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford on the loss to Purdue

Michigan State’s Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford talk about losing a 17-point lead and falling to Purdue on a shot in the final seconds.

The Detroit News

East Lansing — For the final 8:10 of Friday night’s matchup between Michigan State and Purdue, the Spartans were committed to riding things out with a small lineup.

When Julius Marble checked out of the game in favor of Joey Hauser, that left the 6-foot-9 forward playing the center spot with 6-7 Malik Hall at power forward along with guards Aaron Henry, Rocket Watts and A.J. Hoggard. Over the final eight-plus minutes, as Purdue was chipping away at Michigan State’s lead, the backcourt switched up. Joshua Langford came in for Watts with 5:07 to play and Watts was back for Hoggard at 1:33.

But the bigs remained the same, a decision by coach Tom Izzo that ultimately hurt No. 23 Michigan State in its 55-54 loss in a game it led by 17 early in the second half.

“I’m all good with critical decisions,” Izzo said. “Not like half the people where if I didn’t make the right one I’ll man up to it, and if I did make the right one, I’ll look at it on film and tell you why. But I’ll tell you, this game should have never come down to that. If we don’t turn the ball over, if we move the ball like we did the first half … the game should never have come down to that.

“If you cut out on the free throw and you win we don’t ask these kinds of questions. And yet,  I don’t blame you for asking them when we don’t win, because we played well enough to win and we didn’t do the things we needed to do.”

Izzo is right. Michigan State turned the ball over 10 times in the second half, limiting the offensive possessions and leading to a 12-minute stretch without a bucket.

And when the game was on the line, a rebound on a missed Trevion Williams free throw with 9.8 seconds to play might have led to a victory.

But Michigan State didn’t have bigs like Marble, Thomas Kithier, Marcus Bingham or Mady Sissoko in the game. They weren’t there to help defense Williams, who scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half, and they weren’t there to help grab a key rebound.

Instead, Hauser battled the best he could to defend Williams while Hall doubled on numerous possessions. But it didn’t work as Williams scored 10 of Purdue’s final 12 points.

Izzo said he was concerned the Boilermakers would hit a big 3-pointer late and that’s why he stuck with the smaller lineup.

“What we didn’t want to go was give up the three,” Izzo said. “We didn’t think they could keep beating us with the two.

“And Trevion’s a load. And I thought Joey did a hell of a job on him when he was on him. Then he got that fourth foul and we just went with what we thought. We were worried about free-throw shooting and Mady and Markie aren’t as good as free-throw shooters, and so that’s a decision I made.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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