'We find ways to lose': Second-half turnovers doom Michigan State in defeat to Purdue
West Lafayette, Ind. — When the game was on the line Tuesday night, Purdue had a budding star to lean on while Michigan State fell down a familiar hole.
While Trevion Williams was scoring 28 points on 13-for-21 shooting, the Spartans were fumbling away the ball and making just one shot in the final 3:30 as Purdue pulled away for a 75-65 victory at Mackey Arena.
“We find ways to lose games instead of finding ways to win games,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, whose team was coming off a 30-point loss at home to Iowa on Saturday. “I couldn't stomach Saturday. I can stomach today. I can stomach these games. I can stomach our game at Iowa. We’re not winning games and that bothers me, but other teams are probably better teams than we are right now. We’ve got to find a way to win.”
There were plenty of opportunities for the Spartans to pull out a win, even as they led by one midway through the second half and were only down one with six minutes to play after Purdue had taken a seven-point lead, its largest of the game at that point.
But the turnovers started to creep in as the Spartans gave the ball up 10 times in the second half and watched as the Boilermakers fed the ball to Williams — the Detroit native who scored 26 in the first meeting in January — while putting the game away at the free-throw line.
“It’s those game-winning plays, those plays we have to make that put us over the top,” Michigan State’s Aaron Henry said. “I feel like I've been saying this throughout my time here, it’s just those plays that are gonna put us over, to get a score at the right time, getting a stop at the right time, not turning the ball over. Just not messing up on things.”
Unfortunately for Michigan State (10-9, 4-9 Big Ten) it’s been a familiar tune all season, and now it heads to Indiana on Saturday with its NCAA Tournament hopes fading further into the distance.
“We had a hell of an effort tonight, we just made some mistakes,” Izzo said. “I'm not worried about our brand, I’m not worried about the tournament. I'm worried about getting my team better.”
Henry scored 15 points for Michigan State while Joey Hauser scored 11 and Julius Marble added 10, but the Spartans could never find an offensive rhythm and failed to keep up with the Boilermakers, who were poised down the stretch while Michigan State fumbled away any chance, making only one shot in the final six minutes.
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Eric Hunter scored 15 for Purdue (14-8, 9-6) while Jaden Ivey added 11 points and Zach Edey scored 10.
“At end of game obviously we forced some turnovers, and that was key,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “And we were able to make our free throws. Those two things allowed us to close the game out.”
Neither team could buy a basket early in the first half as Michigan State went through a 1-for-9 stretch and went almost nine minutes at one point with only a single field goal. Purdue had its own issues, missing all seven of its 3-point attempts while scoring 28 of its 30 first-half points in the paint.
Things started to heat up midway through the half as freshman Mady Sissoko scored five points while Hauser hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Michigan State its first lead at 21-20. It went back and forth from there as Purdue outscored Michigan State 6-2 over the final minute to take a 30-27 lead into the halftime locker room.
“They were on top of me, trying to limit my touches,” Henry said. “I tried to take that to the hole and make adjustments and try to distribute more and try to find my way throughout the game and just let it come to me and not force anything. But they did a good job defensively, and they made some shots.”
The offense kept its rhythm as the second half began, and after Hauser nailed his third triple of the game, Michigan State held a 42-41 lead with 12:55 to play. Purdue scored the next six points to push its lead to five, but the Spartans were able to pull within 51-50 on a Gabe Brown 3-pointer with 8:22 to play.
The Boilermakers responded, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to extend their lead to 57-50 with 7:37 left in the game. The Spartans scored the next six to get within one before a Williams dunk gave Purdue a 59-56 lead with 4:45 left in the second half, a lead that was pushed to 61-56 on a Williams jumper after a Michigan State turnover.
Marble fared the best against Williams, as did freshman Mady Sissoko. However, Sissoko did not play in the second half and when Marble was tired, Izzo went with Thomas Kithier late in the game and Williams took advantage, scoring seven in a row after Michigan State had pulled within one.
“Williams just scored when he wanted to down there, whenever he wanted,” Henry said. “He can pass, he can score over either shoulder, he used the glass really well and we didn’t have an answer for him.”
The Spartans failed to make another basket the rest of the way and turned the ball over three times in the last minutes as the Boilermakers put the game away.
“You see those plays but you kind of forget the ones in the middle when we just we had chances, man,” Izzo said. “We did some good things and we were in position, but we didn't get the job done and they did. They went to their horse down low and he responded.”
Even in defeat, Izzo was pleased with the effort and the fact the Spartans were in the game in the final minutes. And he thinks wins will come if the effort remains consistent.
“If we play this good, we're going to win some games, we just got to shore up a few things,” Izzo said. “It’s frustrating for you, frustrating for our fans, but I promise you it’s not as frustrating as it is for us. But I thought our guys hung in there and in the locker room after we were talking about some good things that I think we can shore up and that's what we're going to try to do.”