Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 2/20/12

Watching Michigan State win decisively on national television Sunday had a distinctively March feel to it. Like a usual spring rite of passage, no doubt helped by the sound of the CBS college basketball theme song we’ve all accustomed to. Once again, the Spartans look like a top line team on NCAA Selection Sunday.

And McDonald’s All-American Branden Dawson is helping too power them there.

The freshman dunk expert has a few creative slams in his arsenal, but his stellar dunk in the second half capped off his 15 points, 11 rebounds and two block effort against Purdue. A well-balanced green and white attack also helped Michigan State sweep their season series with the Boilermakers; Austin Thornton added a career-high 17 points, while center Derrick Nix tallied a twelve point effort. Michigan State’s senior warrior Draymond Green, posted his 33rd career double-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

The storyline of the game was the holes that Purdue would have to fill. After last week’s incident that led to the suspension of D.J. Byrd and the dismissal of starting guard Kelsey Barlow, the team would need to somehow replace the scoring void that these two players filled.

While the Spartans started hot with a 10-0 run early on, the first half also included a breakdwon in classic MSU defense, and the Boilermakers went into halftime with a 38 to 33 lead. Led by Robbie Hummel (who finished the day with 24 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks) Purdue shot percent 46 percent from the field in the first half. In the teams’ meeting in East Lansing earlier this season, Hummel finished with only two points and went 0 of 11 from the field.

The second half was a different story. Assigned the defensive task of guarding Hummel, Draymond Green held “the man with the hot hand” to only 6 points in the second half. The Spartans also went on a 17 to 3 run with under ten minutes of play and held the Boilermakers in a scoring hole that they never quite overcame. The Spartans ended the day shooting 50 percent from the field, while the Boilermakers only shot 33 percent.The 76-62 road win helped the Spartans grab a full one game lead over Ohio State and Michigan at the top of the conference standings.

Obviously, this game’s tournament implications were important. ESPN’s bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, said a Spartans win could help the team bump up to a number one seed. With only four games left (at Minnesota, home against Nebraska, at Indiana and at home against Ohio State), the Spartans will need to tighten up and take care of business to control their own destiny.

Those first three are all winnable. And you remember how the Spartans played at Ohio State already this year, you gotta like their chances in that one too. Only Syracuse and Kentucky are guaranteed #1 seeds, the rest are wide open.

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