Slowing Bridges helps Purdue past Michigan State

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USA Today Sports

The last time Purdue played Michigan State, Spartans freshman Miles Bridges had his way, sticking five three-pointers, putting the ball on the floor to score, showing a versatile offensive game that produced 33 points on 12-of-17 shooting.

Vincent Edwards, the primary defender on Bridges, did not want to see that again Saturday.

Edwards said he took it as a personal challenge in rematch to keep Bridges at bay, and — with some help — the Boilermakers did just that, limiting Bridges to only 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting. All four of his baskets were on three-pointers, but three of those came in the second half when, essentially, Purdue had the game well under control in an eventual 80-63 rout in Mackey Arena.

“Trying to contain one guy like that is tough,” Edwards said. “He’s a heck of a player. He’s really skilled and he’s athletic. Hat’s off to him because he’s a great player.

“At their place, he really got going. He had a few open shots and he got his head up. When you let a good player get his head up, he’s going to make shots. So I was just trying to take up his space and try not to let him get catch-and-shoot shots. He made some tough ones. He made some in rhythm. But to hold him to 14 compared to having 33 last game is huge.”

Bridges appeared to be in line for another big game after sticking his first shot, a three-pointer with Edwards in his face, about two minutes into the game. But Bridges proceeded to miss his next four attempts in the first half, missing another three, missing a fade-away and missing another three and a shot after an offensive rebound. By halftime, Purdue led by 11.

When Edwards left the game late in the first half when it looked like he got banged on the left knee, Caleb Swanigan stepped in and defended Bridges. That happened in the second half, too, though one of Bridges’ three-pointers in the second half came against point guard P.J. Thompson, who wound up on him after a switch. Bridges other threes were with Swanigan on him and Edwards.

“He got it at their place in a lot of different ways. We wanted to do a better job with him not shooting threes. Obviously, he hits four threes, but we also wanted to try not let him get the ball in the post and just corral him a little bit,” Coach Matt Painter said. “But it’s hard to do when you’ve got guys like Michigan State who can shoot the basketball. It’s hard to give help and stop their perimeter shooters. So it was just a total team effort. I thought Vince did a good job while he was on him just trying to be there on the catch. (Bridges) also just had a couple he just made at their place. Just only having nine attempts shows a good team effort guarding him. He’s a great player.”

Purdue’s effort on Bridges was part of a bigger, collective solid performance on the defensive end. The Boilermakers have been better at that end of the court of late — Spartans coach Tom Izzo has noticed watching film — and they did it Saturday by getting center Nick Ward in foul trouble and keeping Michigan State’s shooters from getting hot.

The Spartans made only 9-of-27 three-pointers. Other than Bridges’ four, Matt McQuaid was three for five and Alvin Ellis made two of five threes. At least one of McQuaid’s threes was on a breakdown right in front of Painter and Purdue’s bench.

When Ryan Cline appeared to be late to recover to the wing, Painter immediately threw his hands up and turned away, seemingly knowing the ball was going to go through.

Generally speaking, though, Purdue’s defenders followed the scout.

Ellis was guarded for most of the game by Dakota Mathias, who’s likely going to be a member of the all-Big Ten defensive team at the end of the season. Those two three-point makes for Ellis? One was in Cline’s face, the other against Thompson. Mathias delivered again.

“We just wanted to stay with their shooters. I thought for them coming in here to beat us, they were going to have to beat us from the three-point line,” Painter said. “We wanted to stay with those guys. That’s why when they got a couple early, it was our breakdown. That’s what we improved upon as the game progressed, just trying to take up their space and trying to get them out of rhythm shooting threes.”

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