'Just a shame': Michigan State stumbles in second half, gets upended by Purdue 55-54
East Lansing — The screams from Purdue’s players echoed throughout a mostly empty Breslin Center, sounds of joy emphasized by the fact Michigan State could only look on in stunned silence.
As Aaron Henry’s runner down the lane hit the backboard and clanged off the iron, the buzzer sounded and Purdue had completed a remarkable comeback, erasing a 17-point second-half deficit to beat No. 23 Michigan State, 55-54.
“One of the more disappointing losses we’ve had,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
“It’s just a shame. You’ll never know how hard it is to lose a game like that when the effort was there, and maybe the skill wasn't.”
The effort clearly was there as Michigan State’s defense, once again, was on point. It held Purdue to 33.9% shooting, including 12.5% from 3-point range. But an offensive disappearing act in the second half — the Spartans went more than 12 minutes without a basket at one point — combined with a wild final minute that included some odd defensive decisions by Izzo and his staff helped the Boilermakers pull off the improbable victory.
The win was sealed when Detroit native Trevion Williams hit a short jumper with 4.5 seconds left to give Purdue its only lead of the second half.
“Just a good road win,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well and didn’t play well in the first half. But any time you can figure out a way to win, no matter how ugly it is, you’re hoping you can build confidence for your team. And being able to win a game here — I know there were no fans — but they were pretty good on the defensive end in the first half, so it was our guys showing some intestinal fortitude.”
That intestinal fortitude was clear in the closing minutes. With the score tied at 43 and more than five minutes to play, Purdue made all the winning plays. Four times Michigan State split two free throws — once each from Joey Hauser, Rocket Watts, A.J. Hoggard and Aaron Henry — and when the Spartans needed a rebound late, they couldn’t get it.
Henry’s jumper in the lane with 1:01 to play put MSU up 53-50 and Henry then split a pair of free throws to make it 54-50. But Purdue got two free throws from Eric Hunter and after a steal — one that came as Watts was knocked out of bounds — Williams split a pair of free throws. On the rebound of his miss, the ball was tied up and went to Purdue. That’s when Williams made his winning shot as Henry’s runner at the buzzer went off the rim.
“I don't know,” Izzo said, shaking his head. “You get to the line and make some of those big free throws late, you box out once and you still win the game. It’s always been like this. That was a football game on hardwood and it's been that way for 30-some years. They made the big plays at the end with a couple of loose balls. We said if the ball goes on the floor we were going to get a timeout. We didn’t get it.
“I don't know. I don't know.”
Henry scored 13 for Michigan State (8-4, 2-4 Big Ten), including a jumper with a minute to play that put Michigan State ahead by three. Joshua Langford added 10 for the Spartans.
None of it was enough to contain Williams, scored 26 for the Boilermakers (8-5, 3-3), with 24 of his points coming in the second half.
“We tried to focus in on staying together,” Williams said of the comeback. “Basketball is a game of runs and when they got on their run we tried to focus on staying together, digging deep and trying to come out with the win.”
Early on, it was Michigan State that was focused.
The defense that showed up earlier in the week against Rutgers was back in the first half as Michigan State locked down Purdue, forcing the Boilermakers to open the game just 2-for-13 shooting, including a 0-for-7 stretch that came as the Spartans were busy tearing off 13 straight points, turning a one-point deficit into a 12-point lead at 20-8.
Henry got heated up in that stretch, scoring six points after Watts buried a couple of running jumpers.
The defense continued to play well down the stretch in the first half. After Purdue got six points in a row from Jaden Ivey, Michigan State held the Boilermakers scoreless over the final 3:59 of the half.
Purdue missed its final five shots while Michigan State closed making 4-of-6 as it used a 9-0 run to head to the locker room at halftime with a 31-16 lead.
After Langford opened the second half with a baseline jumper, Purdue went on an 8-0 run to pull within nine. But Langford made a free throw after a technical foul and then Henry dished to Julius Marble for a dunk to push the Michigan State lead back to 36-24 with 15:43 to play.
Purdue kept chipping away, however, and when Williams scored four straight, the Boilermakers were within 38-33 with 11:53 left in the game. That margin was down to 41-38 after a three-point play from Williams with 8:26 left as Michigan State couldn’t buy a bucket.
The Spartans stayed ahead at the line and when Hauser’s 3-pointer ended a drought of more than 12 minutes and put Michigan State ahead, 48-43, with 3:42 to play. Williams hit a layup to pull Purdue within three and when he converted a pair of free throws with 1:21 to play, the Boilermakers were within 51-50.
Henry’s jumper in the lane with 1:01 to play put MSU up 53-50 and Henry then split a pair of free throws to make it 54-50. But Purdue got two free throws from Eric Hunter and after a steal, Williams split a pair of free throws. On the rebound of his miss, the ball was tied up and went to Purdue. That’s when Williams made his winning shot as Henry’s runner at the buzzer went off the rim.
“They made the effort plays,” Henry said. “A couple of things went their way. I missed a free throw before I missed that floater at the end. Just winning time. We’ve got to grow from it, watch the film and understand what happened.
"But nothing will change about us. Tomorrow, we’ll come back to work, preparing for the next team. We'll look at this film, grow from it and learn from it. It’s a tough loss but it is what it is, man. You’ve got to face the facts, grow from it and continue to get better.”