Feb 20, 2014, 9:28 PM EDT
On Sunday afternoon No. 13 Michigan State put forth its worst performance of the season, falling by nine points to a Nebraska team that’s making a hard charge towards an NCAA tournament berth. In that game the Spartans shot 34% from the field and 24 of their 50 attempts were three-pointers, with only five of those shots being made.
Michigan State didn’t shoot well and they didn’t do a good enough job of finding quality looks, two things that had to change against Purdue on Thursday night. It’s safe to say that Tom Izzo’s team made those improvements.
The Spartans set a new school record with 17 made three-pointers, shooting 13-for-19 in the first half, and they shot 57% from the field in their 94-79 win over the Boilermakers. Gary Harris snapped out of his four-game slump, hitting six three-pointers and scoring a game-high 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting to lead four Spartans in double figures.
The big question for Michigan State moving forward is the health of point guard Keith Appling, who didn’t start but played 26 minutes without any tape on his right wrist. Appling scored just one point but he finished the game with nine assists and four turnovers.
On this night Michigan State didn’t need Appling to do much shooting, with Harris, Adreian Payne (23 points) and Travis Trice (14) doing most of the work from beyond the arc and Denzel Valentine adding 16 points. But that wrist and how Appling deals with the injury will factor into how deep into March Michigan State goes.
Michigan State is unlikely to shoot as well from deep as they did against Purdue as the games get tougher. But if they can build on the ball movement and spacing exhibited in West Lafayette, the Spartans will be a difficult team to defend based upon their scoring options. And with Branden Dawson expected to return to the lineup soon, Michigan State may be approaching full strength (knock on wood).
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