”We were just saying, ‘Hey, BJ is out we are going to have to step up and take it over,’” Trice said. “He started it early in the second half and then he told me you gotta go now.”
Valentine scored the first five of the half on a game-tying 3-pointer and a floater that put MSU ahead for good. Then Trice went off for 18 of his 27 points – tying his career high – for a huge senior night performance in a 72-66 win on Wednesday night.
Dawson left for the locker room with 8:38 to go in the first half after taking a blow to the head from Purdue’s Isaac Haas and did not return. Coach Tom Izzo said Dawson was “out of it” at halftime, but was more “with it” at the end and they would know more Thursday.
As it was, the Spartans had to go on without their leading rebounder, who has been known for big games against Purdue. Instead, the other of its main seniors – Trice – made the big mark.
”He really stepped it up and that’s what we need our senior leader to do at the end of the game,” said Valentine, who had 17 points and hit 4 of 9 from 3-point range.
Dawson was not alone in leaving the game, as Valentine headed to the locker room after tweaking his right ankle. Add on Tum Tum Nairn grabbing at his leg, Trice and Colby Wollenman getting knocked around, and MSU was worn down in what Trice called “the most physical game I’ve played in since I’ve been here.”
Toss in foul trouble for Gavin Schilling and Michigan State was relying heavily on role players like Marvin Clark and Wollenman, both of whom answered the call with junior Matt Costello when the Spartans need it
”We had so many guys that stepped up,” Izzo said. “Whether it be guys like Costello or Colby, my Wyoming flash. He did so many things. Alvin Ellis gave us some things, Tum gave us some things.”
Costello finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, while Wollenman had four points and four rebounds, as the pair made life difficult on Purdue big man A.J. Hammons. Wollenman provided a spark late in the first half as he tipped in a missed Trice layup, followed on the next possession by a Clark 3-pointer and a Valentine triple from Trice to pull MSU within 30-27 going into the half.
Coming out, the Spartans increased the 8-2 first-half closing run to a 26-6 run to lead 45-34 as everyone got in on the action. Valentine got the ball rolling. Bryn Forbes hit a floater in transition. Wollenman drove and hit Clark in the corner for a 3. Trice hit a short jumper. MSU forced Purdue into a shot clock violation. Valentine knocked down a three late in the shot clock and MSU was up 11.
But after scoring just four points in the first 9:44 of the half, a quick 8-2 Purdue run to pull the game to 47-42 before Trice came up big with a pair of 3-pointers.
”A lot of the credit goes to Trav,” Wollenman said. “In the second half especially, he willed us to that win.”
But following Trice’s 3-pointers, he hit the front end of a one and one, but missed the back end and Costello came up with arguably the play of the game. The junior pulled down the rebound, spun around Haas to the baseline, going under the hoop and throwing down a huge one-handed dunk and drawing the foul to send the Breslin Center crowd into a frenzy.
”That was a big-time dunk he had,” Trice said.
Free throws and enough plays down the stretch got it done for Michigan State to withstand some late buckets from Purdue, setting the senior night ceremonies into a fitting end with arguably the most balanced win for the Spartans this season.
”It wasn’t like three guys played well,” Trice said. “It was literally a team effort with guys coming in and out and other guys stepping up.”
But there was no denying the centerpiece performances from Trice and Valentine and their conversation at the end of halftime.
“We wanted to elevate our game and we knew that we had to step up and we weren’t going to let our team down,” Valentine said. “We had to get a win on senior night. We just put that in our minds and we showed some determination.”