Michigan State outlasts Purdue 72-66 despite Dawson's injury
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) A relieved Tom Izzo arrived for his postgame news conference and reflected on a night when some of his players could have used a few pads and a helmet.
''Welcome to NFL Films,'' the Michigan State coach said. ''That was a hell of a game. I don't know where to start, because there were so many things that happened, and I just know there were two teams that played awfully hard.''
Travis Trice equaled a career high with 27 points and Matt Costello lifted Michigan State at both ends of the court, helping the Spartans to a 72-66 victory over Purdue on Wednesday night. Michigan State played the whole second half without Branden Dawson, who appeared to take a shot to the head and was limited to nine minutes on his senior night.
Somehow, Michigan State (20-10, 11-6 Big Ten) held its own inside against Purdue's pair of 7-footers. A.J. Hammons managed only seven points on 3-of-12 shooting for the Boilermakers (19-11, 11-6), and Isaac Haas had nine points but only two rebounds.
''You have to give Michigan State credit,'' Purdue coach Matt Painter said. ''I thought they were mentally and physically tougher than us in the second half.''
Michigan State snapped a two-game losing streak and at least momentarily calmed concerns over its NCAA tournament chances. Purdue, meanwhile, missed a chance to pick up a significant road win as the regular season winds down.
The game was physical from the start. Purdue's Dakota Mathias left for a bit with what looked like a head injury, and Dawson appeared to be hit in the head during a scramble for a rebound in the first half.
With the Boilermakers up 25-16, Hammons was called for a flagrant foul. Michigan State cut into the lead and trailed 30-27 at halftime, but Dawson did not return until after the game when he came out for senior night festivities.
''He was out of it when I went in at halftime. He was flat on the table,'' Izzo said. ''I have no idea right now - says he feels a little better.''
Already without Dawson, the Spartans lost Denzel Valentine early in the second half - but what looked like an injury to his right leg only kept the junior out for 81 seconds. Michigan State guard Tum Tum Nairn was limping around at one point in the second half, and Trice was shaken up in the final minutes when Purdue's Basil Smotherman knocked him over in the open court after Michigan State broke the Boilermakers' press.
''It was a MASH unit,'' Izzo said. ''What I give those guys credit for - I mean, Dawson couldn't come back, he was out - but the other guys all sucked it up.''
Costello in particular began to assert himself, defending valiantly against Hammons and keeping Purdue from establishing any real superiority around the basket. Costello finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, and 6-foot-7 junior Colby Wollenman pitched in with four points and four rebounds in 14 minutes - the most he's played in his career against a Big Ten opponent.
''Colby looked like a midget up there on that guy, didn't he? He was so small,'' Izzo said. ''He was battling.''
Michigan State went on a 13-1 run early in the second half and took a 45-34 lead, and Trice helped the Spartans maintain a comfortable advantage. Early in the first half, he took off for a pair of one-handed breakaway dunks, and that was only the beginning. He scored 18 points in the second half.
Although Dawson couldn't play much, Trice was able to enjoy his Breslin Center send-off. Fellow senior Keenan Wetzel checked in for Trice with 5 seconds remaining, and Trice kissed the Spartans' logo at midcourt before exiting.
''Any time it's your last game, you're either going to leave on an extreme high or a low,'' Trice said. ''Today's definitely an extreme high for me, and I'm just happy and blessed that we were able to get the win.''
Kendall Stephens led Purdue with 16 points, and all five of his field goals came from 3-point range. Mathias scored 12 points and did not attempt a shot from inside the arc.
''I just think our offense got a little stagnant,'' Mathias said. ''They made some tough shots down the stretch, and Travis Trice had a great night. It was just tough.''
Purdue: No current Purdue player has beaten Michigan State. The Spartans have won seven straight in the series.
Michigan State: The Spartans and Izzo have won at least 20 games in 15 of the last 18 seasons.
Purdue: Hosts Illinois on Saturday.
Michigan State: Plays at Indiana on Saturday.