Michigan State Spartans Square Off With Purdue Boilermakers For Big Ten Tournament Championship

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana -- The No. 2 (No. 2) Michigan State Spartans and the No. 4 (No. 13) Purdue Boilermakers will tip at 3:00 PM ET in the final game of the Big Ten Tournament. The winner of the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse will receive a trophy and a free pass to the NCAA Tournament

Road To The Big Ten Tournament Final

The No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini beat the No. 13 Minnesota Golden Gophers and then picked up a huge 68-66 upset win against the No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes to set up the matchup against Purdue on Friday. The Boilermakers (26-7) ran away from the Fighting Illini (15-18) early with a high shooting percentage and left the gym victorious, 89-58. The Boilermakers went on and defeated the No. 8 Michigan Wolverines, who beat the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers, in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, 76-59. 

(March 11, 2016 - Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)
(March 11, 2016 - Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

"I came back to get a ring, so it would mean a lot," A.J. Hammons said. "And then on top of that, I've been here four years trying to build back the program and helping everybody out. So it would mean a lot to the fans and the program just to come back with a ring and a championship."

The No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes topped the No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions by four points, but then lost at the hands of the Spartans (28-5). Michigan State pulled off a close 64-61 win over the No. 3 Maryland Terrapins to advance to the Big Ten Tournament final. 

(March 11, 2016 - Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)
(March 11, 2016 - Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

"We made stops, got rebounds when we needed to and guys made free throws down the stretch," senior forward Denzel Valentine said.

Previous Matchup

Purdue only played Michigan State once this season and upset the Spartans with an overtime win, 82-81. The game was at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. 

(Purdue Exponent)
(Purdue Exponent)

In that game, Rapheal Davis, who had 25 points, was on fire for Purdue, shooting 5-for-5 from deep in the first half. With the game knotted at 72 all, the Big Ten Player of the YearDenzel Valentine, missed a step back two-point jumper for Michigan State at the buzzer and the game went into overtime. Valentine fouled Davis, who made one-of-two shots to get the 82-81 overtime victory. 

Players To Watch

The Boilermakers are led by A.J. Hammons, a 7-foot, 261 pound senior from Gary, Indiana. Hammons is averaging 15.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game this season. The center will team with Vince Edwards, a guard, and Caleb Swanigan, a freshman forward, to produce most of the scoring on Sunday. 

Denzel Valentine, the Big Ten Player of the Year, is averaging 19.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game to this point in the year. The senior from Lansing, Michigan is an automatic difference maker on the court. Co-senior Matt Costello will pull down most the rebounds, as the 6-foot-9 forward has averaged 8.3 boards per game this season. 

Projected Starters

No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers
G - Rapheal Davis
G - P.J. Thompson
F - Vince Edwards
F - Caleb Swanigan
C - A.J. Hammons

No. 2 Michigan State Spartans 
G - Bryn Forbes
G - Eron Harris
G - Denzel Valentine
F - Deyonta Davis
F - Matt Costello