EAST LANSING — Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. struggled all game Saturday, both with foul troubles and Purdue’s size.
But No. 4 Michigan State got plenty of contributions off the bench to help rally past the third-ranked Boilermakers to a 68-65 victory in a critical Big Ten showdown.
The Spartans’ reserves outscored Purdue, 24-7. Matt McQuaid scored nine on three 3-pointers, Kenny Goins twice hit game-tying baskets in the final 10 minutes — including a jump shot with 46.7 seconds to play after Purdue went back in front — and played a career-high 30 minutes.
Starting forwards Ward and Jackson combining for just eight points and seven fouls in 24 minutes between them. That allowed senior Gavin Schilling to come off the bench to score seven points and grab seven rebounds while forcing Boilermakers center Isaac Haas to miss a critical shot with 26 seconds to play. Haas’ miss set up Miles Bridges’ game-winning 3-pointer.
“Down the stretch, (Haas) got kind of exhausted a little bit,” Schilling said. “I just tried to keep on playing the same defense I was playing on him the entire game. He made a few tough shots. But as a defender, you want to force your guy to take tough shots. If they make them, they make them.”
MSU equaled its season low with just six turnovers, with just one coming after halftime.
Four of those giveaways came in first 12:04 of the game, and the Boilermakers scored seven points off them.
The Spartans did not cough the ball up once in the final 17:52. They were averaging 14 turnovers a game entering Saturday.
“For us,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said, “that’s like Christmas, the Fourth of July and any other major holiday rolled into one.”
Purdue did not commit a single turnover in the first half and had just three for the entire game. However, all of them came during a three-minute stretch in which MSU took its first lead of the game.
“I thought what makes them tough is they don’t foul much, and they don’t turn it over at all,” Izzo said. “And we know that’s one of our problems.”
Saturday was a tribute game for former MSU coach Jud Heathcote, who died in August.
There were video clips of classic Heathcote moments and games shown throughout the game. At halftime, Heathcote’s family, including wife Beverly, were honored. Spartan legend Steve Smith, former Purdue coach Gene Keady and his wife and a number of Heathcote’s former players wearing buttons with their coach’s picture and another with his first name on their lapels flanked Beverly, who was holding Tom Izzo’s wife Lupe’s hand throughout the ceremony.
After the game, Izzo got emotional thinking about his mentor.
“Jud in his last parting shot — it was up there in the video — was, ‘How do you want to be known?” Tom Izzo said. “And he said, ‘I want to be known as a guy that did it the right way and a guy that cared about his players.’ And I was thinking to myself, ‘How well said?’ And probably a lot of us could learn from that. …
“Hell yeah, I wanted to win it for him. That was his kind of game.”
Carey in house
Vernon Carey, the nation’s top-ranked recruit for 2019 according to Rivals.com and No. 2 per 247Sports.com, was at Breslin for his official visit on Saturday.
Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio talked with him near the MSU bench during pregame warmups.
The 6-9, 245-pound 5-star forward from University High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is just 16 years old. Carey is drawing heavy interest from Duke, Kansas, Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina.
Contact Chris Solari: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!