WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) – Purdue coach Matt Painter keeps waiting for his team to get tougher.
Instead, the losses just keep getting more painful to dissect.
On Saturday night, the Boilermakers couldn’t even take advantage of a banged-up, foul-prone Michigan State squad, allowing Branden Dawson to score 20 points as the 12th-ranked Spartans rolled past Purdue 78-65.
“We let little things bother us, and then it snowballs,” Painter said. “They’ll a three-point play, we’ll miss a shot, and they’ll score and that’s five points. That happens five times a game, and that’s tough to come back from.”
The Boilermakers (12-12, 5-6 Big Ten) have now lost four of their last five overall, two straight at home by double digits and five straight to the Spartans.
And again, the stats were inexplicably bad.
Senior shooting guard D.J. Byrd took only one shot before fouling out with 88 seconds to go and was held scoreless.
Freshman center A.J. Hammons missed his first four shots, finished just 3 of 8 from the field and had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Purdue committed nine first-half turnovers, three from Terone Johnson who had 20 points, and was 22 of 34 from the free throw line and continued missing layups.
For a team playing with such a small margin of error, it was simply too much to overcome.
“Obviously, they have a better team, a more talented team and a more mature team,” Painter said.
But it’s the mentality that makes these Spartans so tough. They ignored the injuries and the foul trouble and simply followed the script.
On a day that Keith Appling and Derrick Nix each scored 17 points to go along with Dawson, Michigan State (20-4, 9-2) won its third straight, for the fourth time in five tries in conference road games and retained at least a share of the league lead going into Tuesday’s game against No. 3 Michigan – regardless of what happens Sunday when No. 1 Indiana visits No. 10 Ohio State.
“Do I have it figured out? I sure didn’t yesterday when (Gary) Harris didn’t practice and (Travis) Trice didn’t practice,” coach Tom Izzo said. “But one thing we do have is some inside-outside ability. We’re not one-dimensional, like some of my teams have been. I’ll figure it out when I get everyone back.”
Since Wednesday night’s win over No. 18 Minnesota, most of the concern was about who would be around to face Purdue’s defense. Appling left the Minnesota game after his right shoulder popped out and then back in, Adreian Payne missed part of the second half with a bloody nose, Harris (back) and Dawson (sprained right ankle) played through the pain, and Trice sat out with a head injury. Trice was the only one didn’t play Saturday.
Some worried that the players could even get caught looking ahead to their looming showdown with their biggest rival.
There were even more concerns when Izzo looked at his bench a little more than five minutes into the second half and saw Payne, Harris and Appling all sitting there with three fouls each.
But like the injuries, Michigan State never let any of it get in the way of what it came to West Lafayette to do – give Izzo his 13th 20-win season.
They’re really banged up right now and then we’re able to get Keith Appling out of the game, and we can’t make anything up right there,” Painter said. “That tells you something.”
After the two Indiana natives, Dawson and Harris, were greeted with a cascade of boos, they responded by making the first two baskets in a game that Michigan State only trailed once – at 8-7.
The Spartans used first-half runs of 7-0 and 6-0 to build a 31-23 halftime lead, then turned the game when Dawson scored six points in a 12-5 run to open the second half. That gave Michigan State a 43-28 lead – even with the fouls adding up and Harris hurting after he got bumped.
“Our team is a lot different when him (Dawson) and Adreian play with the energy that they’re capable of,” Appling said. “It just allows other guys to play off of them.”
When Appling returned with 13:16 to go, he took the cue, scoring seven points during a 9-2 spurt that gave Michigan State a comfortable 62-45 lead with 7:19 to go, and Purdue couldn’t get closer than 12 the rest of the way.
“We just stayed aggressive. Every time Purdue scored, we answered back with a bucket or a free throw or something good,” Dawson said. “A lot of guys stepped up and we just kept playing together as a team.”
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