EAST LANSING, Mich. - Purdue's trip to Michigan State was an unmitigated disaster.
Its time there didn't go much better, as the Boilermakers were blown out in the second half en route to an 83-58 loss.
Purdue couldn't fly into East Lansing Friday night as planned because of icy conditions. Instead, it bussed north the morning of a noon tip-off
It wasn't until about 12:45 a.m. that idled Boilermaker players were directed to leave the Purdue Airport and return to their residences, about four hours before they were scheduled to depart by land.
Point guard Lewis Jackson said he got two hours of sleep. Leading scorer Robbie Hummel said he can't sleep on busses, so whatever shut-eye he got at his apartment between his arrival there at 2 a.m. and the Boilermakers' departure two-and-a-half hours later had to suffice.
No one following the blowout loss used the travel debacle as an excuse for the outcome, the closest acknowledgement of its relevance being Coach Matt Painter suggesting "maybe" the game would have been closer had the trip been "perfect."
But Painter called it an "excuse" to suggest Purdue might not have lost otherwise.
"It's adversity," Jackson said, "but we have to handle adversity better than that."
Whether Purdue was genuinely wobbly legged and bleary-eyed or not, it sure looked like it after halftime, though Michigan State played no small part in it.
But offensive rebounding "single-handedly" - as Ryne Smith put it - kept Purdue remotely competitive in the first half, down just seven at the break.
The Boilermakers scored 14 points off 12 offensive boards in the first half; in the second, they got just six second chances.
"It kept us in the game," Smith said of the first-half offensive rebounding, "and that's huge for us, especially against a great rebounding team.
"In the second half, we weren't able to do that, and the final score really shows that."
Michigan State scored 52 points in the second half. Had it not been for the casualness that comes with gigantically one-sided second-half scores, the Boilermakers might have been hard-pressed to crack 40 for the game.
Rebounding had a lot to do with it. Purdue won the boards 20-12 in the first half; Michigan State won 21-14 in the second.
Whether it was Michigan State's defense, travel fatigue or "just one of those games" - or a combination thereof - Purdue's inability to make a jump shot severely limited it.
The Boilermakers shot 29 percent for the game and made only three three-pointers on 20 tries.
Hummel was an unprecedented 0-for-11 in a two-point game.
"It's embarrassing, really, to not make a shot," Hummel said.
But it wasn't just Hummel who struggled.
Smith, Purdue's foremost three-point threat, was 0-for-5 from distance. D.J. Byrd, who's been an important scorer for Purdue in Big Ten play, shot 2-of-11. Reserve guard Anthony Johnson took seven shots in 18 shots, his only make coming in the game's final seconds.
Ironically, Purdue lost the worst when it shot free throws the best. The Boilermakers were an uncharacteristic 19-of-24 at the foul line.
John Hart was 3-of-4 and tied Lewis Jackson with a team-high 10 points, seven of them coming in the game's helter-skelter final four minutes.
Compounding matters was that Michigan State gauged Purdue's defense, though the AAU game that broke out in the contest's final minutes contributed to bloating the numbers some.
The Spartans shot 60 percent, frequently getting the ball to the rim, where Purdue couldn't match up with their size.
The Boilermakers sought to keep Michigan State from running offensively, but the Spartans scored 18 fast-break points.
Early in the second half, Brandon Wood's three-pointer in transition capped the Spartans' 7-0 run to start the half, giving the hosts a 14-point lead Purdue would never get down again to single-digits.
"You can't just have to continue to grind against a really good team on their home court and that's what we were doing because we couldn't make a shot," Painter said. "Eventually, their size was going to take over, especially around the basket. We had to make some shots early in the second half and we weren't able to do it."
Spartan big men Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne combined for 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, exploiting a decided physical advantage mere feet from the basket.
With the scoreboard issuing enough pain on Purdue, the visitors had to deal with certain other indigitnities.
After Branden Dawson - the freshman from Gary whose name Purdue people know all too well - scored a second-half basket en route to his game-high 14 points, he said something to Painter, who didn't take too kindly to it.
"My players aren't going to talk to opposing coaches," Painter said, repeating exactly his response to Indiana's Earl Calloway having an exchange with Purdue's bench years ago in Bloomington. "That's our rule. That's how we handle it. I'm not letting a 19-year-old kid talk to me, rub it in and stick it to us.
"But to each their own."
Nor was the Boilermaker coach going to take well to members of the Michigan State student section jeering Hummel over his history of knee injuries. Painter exchanged words with those taunting his fifth-year senior in a particularly harsh manner.
"I was just trying to fight, man," Painter said. "I think (the Izzone) is great, but if they're going to say, 'I hope you tear your ACL again,' I'm going to say something. He doesn't deserve that. We probably have guys in our student section who say things that are out of line, but if I'm right on top of it, I'm not taking it."
Hummel's response, in part, later: "I couldn't give a crap what the Izzone says."
What Purdue does have to worry about is ranked Michigan, which visits West Lafayette Tuesday.
"We have to come back, shake this off and be ready to win," Jackson said.
And get some sleep.
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