Big Ten Predictions: Can Purdue cover vs. MI in final? 3/4/18

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First it was Nebraska in the quarterfinals, then most recently top-seeded Michigan State. The No. 8-ranked Boilermakers, who edged MI twice in the regular season by a combined five points, beat seventh-seeded Penn State in the second semifinal.

The second-ranked Spartans haven't lost since, setting the stage for No. 1 seed Michigan State to exact some revenge on the 13th-ranked Wolverines on Saturday when they renew acquaintances at New York's Madison Square Garden in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.

There has been a lot said and written about people not happy the conference tournament was held in New York City this week as opposed to the normal stops of Chicago or Indianapolis.

"We're playing in an elimination game". The Wolverines are just a hard matchup for them as Nick Ward is not quick enough to deal with Wagner and the Michigan's guards were able to turn the corner driving at their Michigan State counterparts.

Two dunks, a layin and a short jumper later, the Maize and Blue had the announced crowd of 21,711 at Chicago's United Center going insane. "We know if we continue to win we'll be in good shape".

"We had one guy working and four guys watching, and we were that way offensively and defensively".

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"For him to step up in that situation", Julian Moore said, "It really meant the world". "And it was a difference-maker". MSU eventually pulled within five after a 3-pointer from Matt McQuaid, but Abdur-Rahkman answered again with a 3-pointer at the shot clock horn to make it 62-54 with just 2:48 to go. "It felt like a home game, and we definitely fed off the energy". Miles Bridges led Michigan State with 20 points.

"I think they're a little tougher, personally", Izzo said.

"I knew I didn't want this to be my last game tonight", Garner said. "So I'm glad about that".

A few things have likely contributed to any lingering questions about John Beilein's teams' toughness: a propensity for the 3-point shot; infrequent trips to the free throw line; and, most glaringly, a mediocre defense.

Follow SN's live updates as MI takes on Purdue with a conference title on the line.

The Huskers struggled to find any rhythm as starting center Kate Cain was in foul trouble for a majority of the game and played just 21 minutes, finishing with six points, two rebounds and two blocks. His scoring average is 16.5 and his 3-point percentage is 44, after making 26-of-58 shots from deep.

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Saturday, both were fouled down the stretch, and both came through.

The 6-8, 300-pounder got off to a sluggish start, but made up for that with an incredible second 20 minutes.

Miles Bridges figured out MI head coach John Beilein's defense.

"Our guys are tough", Beilein said Saturday. "So we might just go to the beach in East Lansing and see if we can play a little beach basketball". The former MI (and Purdue) point guard is a great follow, especially during his old teams' games. The Huskers have made one of the biggest turnarounds in the NCAA this season after winning just seven games a year ago.

MI trailed 29-26 at the half, but used a 10-2 burst to open the second half and take a 36-31 lead it never lost. Michigan State was 9-of-10. Saturday marked eight straight victories as MI climbs the seed-line ladder here en route to a Sunday afternoon championship game appearance against Purdue. The Spartans shot 35.5 percent from the field and MI was at 31 percent. The sophomore star had 17 points and seven assists, but the rest of his teammates went just 17-of-45 from the field. The Bulldogs' lead grew to 11 on a layup by Tyree Crump before Tennessee guard Jordan Bone hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to bring the Vols back within 42-34 at halftime. "No agendas, no personal drama, everything is regarding the team goal - and that's big time". We just ran into a buzzsaw in MI. "I think they were very aggressive with her pretty much all of the times we've played".

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