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January 5, 2013

Spartans pull away as Purdue struggles







Listen: Coach Matt Painter | D.J. Byrd | Terone Johnson | A.J. Hammons

PDF: Purdue-Michigan State Box Score

EAST LANSING, Mich. - For 24 minutes of game time Saturday, Purdue played well enough to win in one of the Big Ten's most daunting environments.

In the final 16, it crumbled, and Michigan State rolled to an 84-61 win in a game it actually trailed in the second half.

Adversity struck Purdue in its first Big Ten road game and it did not respond well. Of course, the 18th-ranked Spartans had more than a little to do with it.

After the Boilermakers opened the second half scoring nine of the first 11 points, they led 39-38 less than four minutes in.

But as soon as Purdue claimed its lead, fouls began piling up against the Boilermakers and Michigan State scored its next nine points from the free throw line to go back up six.

The Boilermakers didn't handle the stretch well.

"You have to, especially on the road," senior D.J. Byrd said. "... Those are things you have to overcome, whether you're at home or on the road. You have to keep your composure, keep your head in the game and stay together and know what's going on in the game. They play's already happened. You have to be able to fight back and continue to play the game."

It was an especially crushing stretch for Purdue when Anthony Johnson was called for an elbow-related dead-ball technical foul at 13:14. Michigan State made two foul shots, then lost center A.J. Hammons to his third foul on a rebound that followed shortly thereafter.

The freshman had loomed large in Purdue's early half run and it was clearly the Boilermakers' intent to involve him. Also, the 7-footer's loss to the bench helped open the floodgates for Michigan State to dominate the glass in the second half, after the two teams were even in the first half.

"We felt like we had to start getting the ball inside to steal some points," Coach Matt Painter said, "and without him, we don't have the same presence."

Purdue took exception to some of the second-half calls were part of the 21-4 Michigan State run that blew the game open, but wasn't about to point fingers following the game.

It shouldered far too much of the blame for the result for that.

While Michigan State got rich at the foul line, Purdue missed five straight, including two one-and-one opportunities.

The failings were untimely for a team that was then struggling to score.

"(Michigan State's) a good team, so we can't blame it on any calls," said guard Terone Johnson, who needed 19 shots to score 11 points after a 25-point outburst against Illinois. "There's a lot of stuff we could have controlled. The stuff we can't control, we can't cry about it, but we can control missing layups in the lane and not leaving guys open. That's stuff we didn't do."

While Purdue missed its free throws, the Spartans scored 10 straight points to lead by 16 with nine minutes left.

"We can't have stretches where they're already up six, then things happen and they're up 15," Byrd said. "That's what hurt us most. In the first half, we played hard and battled hard; in the second half, it was just too much. We dug ourselves a hole."

Michigan State led 36-30 at halftime after Purdue kept close by turning the ball over just three times and battling the Spartans to a standstill on the boards before getting routed 24-13 in the second.

But, Michigan State guards and Purdue legacies Gary Harris and Travis Trice combined to score 19 points, almost all of them off pull-up jump shots in transition.

"Michigan State does a great job getting the ball up the floor," Byrd said. "On a make or on a miss, they really push it. You have to be able to get back because if they get those open threes in transition and start making them, it's really difficult to contain (them)."

Harris led all scorers with 22 points, making 6-of-8 threes; Michigan State made 8-of-15 for the game. Branden Dawson got loose in the second half, finishing with 14 and 11 rebounds.

For Purdue, Hammons' 20 led all Boilermakers, but eight of them came in the final six-plus minutes, after the outcome had been decided.

"I'm a little upset with myself," Hammons said, "because I wanted it more at the end and that's the way I should have come out in the second half."

Byrd finished with 14 points.

Purdue committed a modest 10 turnovers, but made just 9-of-20 free throws, a factor that weighed heavily into it unraveling during the game's decisive stretch.

"You're going to have some things go against you and a lot of things right in a row went against us," Painter said of those sequences. "The things you have to talk about as a coach are the things you can control. We fouled, we missed our free throws, and we missed a couple layups and had a couple breakdowns. At times, things get out of your control, but we had a couple things in that stretch we could control and we just didn't handle our business."




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