MSU’s Branden Dawson stirs thing up with his game at Purdue
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or email@example.com February 9, 2013 9:40PM
Former Purdue basketball player Robbie Hummel jokes with mascot Purdue Pete before he was honored at halftime of an NCAA college basketball game between Purdue and Michigan State in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. Hummel is the 14th Purdue player to be honored with a banner in Mackey Arena. Hummel currently plays with Obradoiro CAB in Liga ACB in Spain.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Updated: March 11, 2013 7:04AM
WEST LAFAYETTE — Branden Dawson walked off the Mackey Arena floor with 23.6 seconds remaining to a brief embrace and a muted high five from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
It was a celebration of a job well done for Dawson, a Lew Wallace graduate, who finished with a career high 20 points in the Spartans’ 78-65 victory over Purdue on Saturday.
In his brief career against the Boilermakers, Dawson has already had his moments, which have served to rile up the Purdue faithful. This time, he riled them up with his stellar play.
Last season, Dawson got in a little back-and-forth with Purdue coach Matt Painter that was duly noted.
In the last game the two teams played, at East Lansing, Mich., there was the question of whether Dawson threw a punch at Travis Carroll underneath the basket after a 3-point shot. It’s a view that the Purdue fans believe was obvious and one that the Big Ten felt wasn’t clear at all. The league decided not to discipline Dawson for the incident.
The history has heated this game up from a personal point of view, partially, perhaps, because Dawson was so highly coveted by Painter.
The past, aside from a questionable flagrant foul called on D.J. Byrd against Dawson when he went up for a layup, seemed irrelevant.
Aside from a bit of a frantic start, Dawson played his game perfectly, darting in and around the lane and driving to the basket when he had an opening. Just a 50.8 percent free-throw shooter coming into the game (53-for-99), he also made all six of them. He finished 7-for-9 from the field.
Izzo said his ability to play his game was crucial.
“He did a good job of driving and not taking so many shots,” Izzo said. “He also made all his free throws.”
Dawson admitted that he was amped up for the game in the beginning. His mother had traded texts with him, telling him to focus on his game and his friends had warned him the atmosphere would be electric. He heard them — it just took a while to process.
“My momentum was too hot,” he said. “I was looking at doing too much. It’s something to learn from.”
In the second half, when he scored 12 points, Dawson played more in sync with the game plan, which was for the Spartans to get the ball inside to Derrick Nix and then have him take advantage of the gaps.
Izzo said one of Dawson’s challenges is that he really has improved his ball handling to the point where he believes he can take anyone on by himself.
That’s not something the MSU coach necessarily wants.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Izzo said of his ball handling. “He thinks he can take everybody. When he lets the game come to him, when he moves side to side and slashes like he did, that really benefits us.”
Hummel’s jersey hanging from the rafters: The crowd was adoring, just as boisterous as when Purdue was actually doing well intermittently against Michigan State, for the halftime presentation.
Robbie Hummel, whose No. 4 jersey was officially raised in Mackey Arena, next to buddy E’twuan Moore’s, was just as smitten.
Hummel, who will Boiler up until they bury him, told the full house that it was beyond a dream come true to be honored.
“It blows mind that this is possible,” he said.
He noted that the first time he came to Mackey was in 1994, when Valparaiso High School beat East Chicago Central in an epic three-overtime semistate game that lifted the Vikings to the state finals. He was five.
Now, he and Moore, an EC graduate, have jerseys hanging together from the ceiling of Mackey.
“I’ve come full circle,” he said.
Afterward, in the hallway of Mackey, where Michigan State coach Tom Izzo stopped to say “Hi” before he walked back out to the court for the second half, Hummel was still smitten.
“I had so many people help me along the way,” he said. “It’s almost hard for me to put into words what those guys mean to me.”
Purdue, which lost the game 78-65, could’ve used him. Hummel would’ve laced it up in a heartbeat if it was an option.
“I wish I could,” he said. “I love playing in this place.”