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Heartbreak, again

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Another high-end, big-stage game for Purdue, another devastating result.

A team that woke up Wednesday morning 12-0 in the Big Ten and riding a 19-game winning streak now finds itself a game back in the conference and riding a modest losing streak after the third-ranked Boilermakers dropped a heart-breaker Saturday at No. 4 Michigan State,68-65.

"Some things didn't go our way, but that's basketball," a dejected Dakota Mathias said. "We very easily could have won this game, but that's what happens. It's basketball. We'll bounce back."

A game after Keita Bates-Diop’s putback with 2.8 seconds left did Purdue in against Ohio State, this time it was Miles Bridges’ long, stepback three-pointer with 2.6 left that undid the Boilermakers in a game they led for 30-plus minutes, then again with a little more than a minute remaining.

"It was a pretty deep shot and I thought I contested it pretty well," Mathias said. "He just rose up and ... it was great offense."

After Isaac Haas scored with 1:04 remaining — as part of a 12-of-22, 25-point day — Purdue led 65-63.

But Kenny Goins, the reserve forward whose scoring average jumped to 2.1 points per game today, made a jumper to tie it.

“Killed us,” Coach Matt Painter said.

“The five guys on the court, that’s the guy you want shooting it.”

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Next time down, after a Haas miss, Michigan State got it to the last guy Purdue wanted shooting it on this day.

As has been his M.O. all season and perhaps longer, Painter decided not to foul with one to give. Painter said he didn't want to, citing the fact Purdue beat Michigan in Mackey Arena in part because the Wolverines fouled, though reports from the Michigan State end say Bridges said he heard Purdue's bench calling for a foul when the clock hit five seconds.

Regardless, Bridges shot it, and made it.

Guarded by Mathias, the sophomore future first-rounder took a few dribbles to his right, pulled up from a good six feet behind the three-point line and shot over Mathias’ outstretched hand, hitting nothing but net.

“He made a tough shot, obviously,” Painter said. “You’d have liked to have kept it out of his hands, but any time you make a step-back 25-footer, you tip your cap to him.”

And that was it, Purdue’s second wrenching defeat in as many outings during its biggest week of the season.

The particularly difficult part of this one: While it lost on bounces, largely, to Ohio State, Purdue played well at Michigan State, playing 30-plus minutes of turnover-free basketball and holding the Spartans nine points below their scoring average in Big Ten games.

Purdue committed only three turnovers for the game, but they came during a costly stretch in which the Boilermakers were getting defensive stops in a close second half but couldn’t capitalize on offense, not all that dissimilar to the string of empty possessions that led to a loss vs. Ohio State after Purdue was up 14.

The Ohio State and Michigan State games now stand as Purdue's two lowest-scoring outings of the season, in arguably the two biggest games.

In addition to Haas’ 25 points, Carsen Edwards scored 14. No other Boilermaker scored more than eight.

The Boilermakers held a 10-point lead with 1:15 left in the first half, but Bridges (20 points, 9-of-14 shooting) made a contested three, then Cassius Winston beat the halftime buzzer to cut it to five.

In the second half, the three-point shooting that helped Purdue build a first half lead betrayed it.

After a 6-14 opening 20 minutes, the Boilermakers were 0-for-5 during the back 20. Asked if Michigan State did anything to take away the three while it single-covered Haas from start to finish, Mathias said, "Nope."

It's been a difficult week for Purdue, which came so close to so much at a time when a few things here or there could have all but locked up for it a Big Ten championship and built an almost air-tight case for a No. 1 seed to the NCAA Tournament.

Purdue is no worse a team than it was before after two coin-toss-type results and knows as much.

"We’ve lost four games all year," point guard P.J. Thompson said. "We’re in position to win the Big Ten still. I think we’re going to have a really good year still. There’s a lot of basketball to be played."

That likely makes the result of the past four days no easier to digest, however.


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