February 20, 2014 at 11:16 pm

No. 13 Michigan State 94, Purdue 79

Michigan State plasters Purdue with school-record 17 3-pointers

Tom Izzo on Purdue game
Tom Izzo on Purdue game: Michigan State's coach talks about Thursday night's win over the Boilermakers.

West Lafayette, Ind. – In its loss Sunday to Nebraska, Michigan State shot 34 percent from the field and barely 20 percent from 3-point range.

Combine that with a lack of energy from the opening tip, and it spelled disaster for the Spartans. Entering Thursday’s game at Purdue, Michigan State wasn’t about to let the same thing happen again.

Behind a record 17 3-pointers, No. 13 Michigan State rolled to a 94-79 victory over Purdue at Mackey Arena. Michigan State (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) is now a half-game ahead of Michigan for first place in the Big Ten heading into Sunday’s showdown in Ann Arbor.

“I thought we played one of our better basketball games, especially offensively,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Some of those stats were mind-boggling. At halftime we had 14 baskets and 13 of them were 3s and there were 13 assists. We end the game with 26 assists on 30 baskets; I’ve never heard of a stat like that.”

The 17 3-pointers are the most in Michigan State history and ties the overall conference mark in Big Ten games as Indiana has accomplished the feat twice. Northwestern has made 20 3-pointers in two separate nonconference games.

Gary Harris, who entered the game having gone 3-for-21 from long range in his previous three games, was 6-for-9 from 3-point range Thursday and led the Spartans with 25 points. Adreian Payne scored 23 while shooting 4-for-8 on 3-pointers while Travis Trice was 4-for-6 from 3-point range and finished with 14 points. Denzel Valentine hit just one from long distance but matched his career-high with 16 points.

Much of the success can be attributed to extra work. Payne, Harris, Valentine and Keith Appling were all at the arena an hour ahead of the rest of the team to get some extra shots.

“We definitely got up a lot more shots than we normally get before the game,” Harris said. “We were comfortable out there, especially coming into an away gym. … When I saw A.P. going early I knew it was a good sign the way he came out shooting the ball. I missed my first two but they felt good, so I knew right from the jump it was going to be a good night just by the energy and the way everybody was knocking down shots.”

Harris came into the game struggling with his shot, but playing in the same gym his mother used to star in certainly helped his cause.

“I don’t know,” Harris said, trying to explain why he plays so well in his home state. “It feels good coming back home and playing against the hometown teams and guys I grew up playing against. It’s fun, so I enjoy it.”

Harris’ teammates also had fun watching their star player perform like they know he can.

“Man, that was great,” said Trice, who had six assists. “You saw him struggling for a couple of games and for him to come out of it and play the way he did, we’re happy for him, seeing him knock down shots like that.”

It wasn’t all Harris, however.

Payne got things going early, hitting three 3-pointers in the first six minutes. And when he, Harris and Trice hit three straight, a tie game was suddenly a nine-point Michigan State lead, one it would never relinquish.

“I was just trying to take what the defense game me,” Payne said. “I’d set the pick and then pop and they sat back on me and sagged off so it was like a green light to shoot the ball.”

Kendall Stephens did his best to keep Purdue (15-11, 5-8) in the game, scoring 19 points and hitting four 3-pointers while Ronnie Johnson added 17 points and Rapheal Davis scored 13.

“We kept fighting and kept fighting, but they would come down and make some tough shots,” Johnson said. “We broke down defensively. Defense wins games and we have to take defense a little bit more seriously.

It was the third straight win at Mackey Arena for Michigan State and the sixth straight in the series.

It was clear early it was going to be a good shooting night or the Spartans, who opened the game on fire and hit 13 of 19 shots from 3-point range in the first half to take a 49-38 lead at halftime. Harris was 4-for-7 in the first half and scored 19 points to lead the Spartans. Payne had 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Trice also made two from long range in the first half.

The Spartans nailed four more in the second half and the record-setter came from Trice 6:44 to play.

“When you’re out there playing (the record) is the last thing you’re worried about,” Trice said. “You worry about the next play and getting the win. But when somebody says it, it’s like you didn’t even know. It feels good. I’m definitely happy I hit the three to break the record, but it was definitely a team effort.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com
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Michigan State's Adreian Payne passes to a teammate during the first half. / Doug McSchooler / Associated Press