EAST LANSING, Mich. — Miles Bridges delivered at a key moment in a big game for Michigan State.
Forget about the NBA. This is worth the wait for the talented sophomore.
Bridges connected on a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left and finished with 20 points, helping the fourth-ranked Spartans beat No. 3 Purdue 68-65 on Saturday.
“Those type of moments, that’s the main reason I came back,” he said.
Tom Izzo is sure thankful he decided to return. The Hall of Fame coach encouraged Bridges to enter the NBA draft last year after his freshman season, but the forward from Flint, Michigan, wanted to stay in school.
“He came back to be in these kind of games and try to help us win a championship of some kind,” Izzo said. “Miles, he got what he deserved.”
The Spartans (24-3, 12-2 Big Ten) have won eight straight, improving their chances of contending for a conference championship and earning a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
“At least we’ve given ourselves a chance,” Izzo said.
The Boilermakers (23-4, 12-2) have lost two straight after winning a school-record 19 games in a row.
“A couple tips, a couple rebounds, a couple shots go out way, it’s a different story,” Purdue guard Dakota Mathias said. “We’ll be back.”
Purdue led by as many as 10 points in the first half and by eight points early in the second half. Michigan State went ahead for the first time when Bridges made a jumper off the dribble near the top of the key with 9:06 left.
The Boilermakers tied the game four times over the last five-plus minutes and missed on chances to go ahead or at least get closer in the final minute.
Isaac Haas had a shot to put Purdue ahead with 23 seconds left, but was pushed away from the basket by Gavin Schilling and came up short on the shot in the lane.
“The last shot he missed, (Schilling) had him out a couple feet extra,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We need to get it to him deeper than that.”
Purdue’s Vincent Edwards missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2.4 seconds left, trailing by three.
Haas had 25 points on 12-of-22 shooting, facing one defender instead of the usual two because Izzo wanted to limit the impact of Purdue’s shooters on the outside.
“We were so paranoid of the 3s,” Izzo said. “I heard some moans, but we just stuck with it.”
Carsen Edwards scored 14 for the Boilermakers.
Michigan State’s Cassius Winston had 10 points and 10 assists.
Purdue: To get back to their winning ways, the Boilermakers probably have to find more than just two scorers to get into double digits. Other than Haas and Carsen Edwards, no one on the team scored more than eight points.
But Painter said if other teams choose to defend Haas with only one player he wants the 7-foot-2 center to continue getting the ball.
“I don’t think you have to have balance,” Painter insisted.
Michigan State: The Spartans have earned the swagger back that they lost with a lopsided setback at Ohio State last month.
“I do think we have a higher ceiling, but whether we get there is a big key,” Izzo said.
TRIBUTE TO JUD
Michigan State honored former coach Jud Heathcote , who led the program to its first national title in 1978 and died in August at the age of 90. Highlights of his career were played during timeouts on the videoboards. Former Spartan star Steve Smith addressed the crowd at halftime and thanked Heathcote’s family, including his wife Beverly, for sharing him with the basketball program.
Heathcote hired Izzo as a part-time assistant in 1983 and pushed for him to be the school’s coach for the 1995-96 season.
“Because of Jud, I got to live a different life,” Izzo said.
Vernon Carey Jr., one of the top-rated high school juniors , attended the game as part of his official visit. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward from Florida is the son of Vernon Carey, who started 107 NFL games on the offensive line for the Miami Dolphins. He also is considering Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Miami.
Purdue: Plays at Wisconsin on Thursday.
Michigan State: Plays at Minnesota on Tuesday.
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at http://twitter.com/larrylage