Purdue survives tough test from Michigan State in Big Ten quarterfinals

Friday, the Purdue basketball team advanced to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals after receiving a challenge from Michigan State.

Michigan State v Purdue
Michigan State v Purdue / David Berding/GettyImages

Purdue fans know all too well that life in the postseason is never a walk in the park. That point was hammered home again on Friday in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

Facing a Michigan State team that is on the bubble, Purdue weathered a second-half storm that included a scare when it appeared that point guard Braden Smith had injured his knee to prevail with a 67-62 victory to advance to Saturday's semifinals.

To say it was a work of art by the No. 1 seeded Boilermakers would be a stretch. They shot only 41.5% overall and 5-14 from 3-point range.

However, when the game was on the line, it was Purdue that made the winning plays. With the game knotted at 56-56, Fletcher Loyer drained the shot of the game, a 3-pointer from the corner to put his team back on top for good.

It was a loud moment in an otherwise quiet afternoon for the sophomore who had only five points on 2-6 shooting despite playing 37 minutes. It was the type of play that championship teams need in March.

Championship teams also need their best players to be clutch and that's what big man Zach Edey was just a few moments later. With his team ahead just 62-60 with 20 seconds to play, the presumptive national player of the year drilled two free throws to extend the lead and essentially seal the win.

Edey finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds despite being constantly double and triple-teamed by the Spartans. He was especially effective at getting to the free-throw line going 9-14. Overall, that was an area where the Boilermakers had a distinct advantage going 18-27 to Michigan State's 10-12.

Now, it must be said that somewhere along the way, Edey is going to need his teammates to carry more of the load. No other Boilermaker put up more than the 10 points that Lance Jones managed to contribute.

Of course, the defense that the No. 1 seed played with was championship caliber. Michigan State was able to shoot only 39.3% as a team and 22.2 (4-18) from the 3-point line.

One key was that Spartan guard A.J. Hoggard managed only eight points on 3-8 shooting one game after hanging 17 points on Minnesota. Though Hoggard did dish out 10 assists on the day, the fact that he was held in check by the Purdue defense was critical.

The Boilermakers are two wins away from becoming the second program to ever win both the outright Big Ten regular season title and conference tournament in consecutive years. Michigan State did that in 1999 and 2000 and went on to win the National Championship in 2000, making them the last Big Ten team to win it all.

Of course, Purdue has designs on ending the conference's National Championship drought and they took an important step in that process on Friday by showing that the demons of recent postseason past may be gone. However, the Boilermakers will have to play better from here on out than they did on Friday if they want to make the right kind of history for a change.