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Shorthanded Purdue Falls to Michigan State

In many ways, Purdue’s performance Sunday against Michigan State was a microcosm of the team’s past week.

The Boilermakers started off strong, only to fall late.

The eighth-ranked Spartans beat Purdue for the third straight time 76-62.

“The game is all about emotions and it’s about runs too.  For a while we had Michigan State struggling to hit shots and then (Austin) Thorton and those guys got it going from the outside in the second half and we kind of cooled down,” said senior guard Lewis Jackson. 

“You got to credit Michigan State.  We just missed some shots here and there.  (If) we get one or two of those shots to go down, the crowd maybe gets more into it, our spirits stay a little bit higher. It’s just the way basketball goes sometimes.”

Purdue came out strong at home in a game that could have greatly enhanced their NCAA tournament resume.  The Boilermakers are now 0-7 against ranked opponents.

Robbie Hummel scored 20 of his game-high 24-points in the first 20-minutes.  He seemed determined to erase his 0-11 performance against the Spartans a month ago in East Lansing.  Fellow senior Lewis Jackson also played one of his better games with 15-points and five assists.  Ryne Smith and Anthony Johnson both added 10-points.

In the first half, as a team, the Boilermakers shot 46-percent and had seven assists compared to three turnovers and took a 38-35 lead into the locker room.

After the mid-game break, the Boilermakers went flat.  Purdue made just one of its first 23 shots in the second half and shot 22-percent in the final frame.

“Honestly I thought we got pretty good shots, a lot of good shots at the rim,” said Hummel.  “Obviously they are a good defensive team, but I thought we just missed shots.”

Draymond Green sparked Michigan State’s second half surge.  The senior finished with 20-points, 10-rebounds, and seven assists.

“I wasn’t very pleased with my star at halftime. I just didn’t think he was playing the way I think he should play,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo of Green.  “I told him we are going to put our team on your back in the second half and boy did I think he answered the bell.”

The Spartans (22-5, 11-3) also got a lift from senior Austin Thorton who scored a career-high 17-points and Gary, Indiana-native Branden Dawson who added his own double-double with 15-points and 11-rebounds.

The Boilermakers suffered their fourth loss at home in conference play.  Last year, they went undefeated for the season in Mackey Arena.   The loss was compounded by a week of controversy for the team.

Two days after one of the team’s biggest wins of the season, a 67-62 victory at Illinois, Purdue dismissed its best defender and fourth leading scorer Kelsey Barlow after an incident at a West Lafayette bar earlier that morning.  The occurrence resulted in the arrest of junior D.J Byrd who sat out Sunday’s game as penalty. 

“You move forward.  At times we get consumed with guys who do the wrong things and I’d rather just get consumed with guys that do the right thing,” said Purdue head coach Matt Painter.  “But, it is disappointing.”

The Boilermakers are vowing to rally together as a team to overcome the off-court setbacks.   Painter believes his team has done a better job handling hardships on the court the past few games, but says that challenge is even greater now.

“We’ve added fuel to the fire by adding our own adversity, but when adversity sets in, how are you going to handle it?  During the courses of games sometimes, we haven’t done a great job of that,” he said.

 “Here in the past couple of weeks we have, in terms of playing the game of handling adversity and fighting through, and (Sunday) was another example where I thought we did a good job, but we just couldn’t handle that kind of drought shooting the ball against a quality team like Michigan State.”

Purdue falls to 17-10 with the loss and back to an even 7-7 in Big Ten play.  The Boilers host Nebraska Wednesday.  Then two of their final three games are on the road against ranked opponents, Michigan and Indiana.