Purdue Ends Michigan State’s 13-Game Winning Streak, Hands Spartans First Big Ten Loss

Purdue officially threw its hat in the ring as a Big Ten contender with a 73-63 win Sunday over No. 6 Michigan State, which was previously undefeated in conference play and entered Purdue’s Mackey Arena riding a 13-game winning streak.

The Boilermakers were nothing short of dominant in the first 28 minutes of the game as they took a 37-19 lead into halftime and extended their lead to 23 with 13 minutes left in the game. When the Spartans made a furious comeback to cut the deficit to four with five minutes remaining, Purdue was able to offer a decisive counter-punch that allowed the Boilermakers to win by double digits.

Ironically, Purdue played arguably its best half of basketball of the entire season with leading scorer Carsen Edwards contributing just three points on 1-of-8 shooting before halftime. Edwards entered Sunday with a 34.9 percent usage rate, the seventh-highest nationally, but Purdue’s supporting cast stepped up as he struggled through his second-worst shooting performance of the season. He scored 14 points on 4-of-19 shooting.

Ryan Cline scored a team-high 17 points on 5-of-10 three-point shooting, Nojel Eastern added 12, including eight at the free throw line, while Aaron Wheeler (11 points) and Matt Haarms (10) both reached double figures off the bench.

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Purdue’s roster is constructed to surround Edwards with big wings who can spread the floor and a platoon at center with 6-9 freshman Trevion Williams and Haarms, the 7-3 sophomore.

Purdue was 12-of-28 (42.9%) from three, including 7-of-17 in the first half, and it committed just two turnovers before halftime so it was able to run efficient offense while Edwards wasn’t scoring.

Cline made at least five threes in a game for the fourth time this season. In the seven games since Big Ten play resumed, he’s 24-of-46 (52.2%) from behind the arc. Forward Aaron Wheeler was a perfect 3-of-3 from deep and Eric Hunter Jr. made 1-of-2 attempts, improving upon their previous three-point percentages of 33.3 and 25 percent, respectively.

Led by Eastern at the point of attack defensively, the Boilermakers held Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston to seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in the first half.

Freshman Eric Hunter Jr. helped out defensively on Winston and he was able to get an easy steal when Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman and Winston had a miscommunication on a dribble hand-off at the top of the key, Hunter scooped up the loose ball and ran the length of the court for an easy layup.

Purdue dominated the boards with a plus-nine rebounding advantage, including 17 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points.

After a layup by Michigan State’s Aaron Henry cut Purdue’s lead to 60-56 with 5:16 to play, Edwards got fouled by Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid shooting a three and he made all three free throw attempts.

Eastern, who entered the game as a 50 percent free throw shooter this season, scored Purdue’s next eight points, including six consecutive free throw attempts, that extended the team’s lead to nine.

Cline hit a high-arcing, step-back jumper that put Purdue up by 12 in the final two minutes and served as the dagger, ensuring that the Boilermakers avoided what would have been an epic collapse and instead clinched their best win of the season.

Purdue has now won five straight games and eight of its last nine. The Boilermakers are in sole possession of third place in the Big Ten, just one game behind Michigan and a game and a half behind Michigan State.

Their only conference losses were on the road at the Wolverines and Spartans, which means the two toughest games on its conference schedule are in the rear-view mirror. The key upcoming stretch for Purdue is a four-game, 12-day span in February in which the Boilermakers play at Maryland, Indiana and Nebraska with a home game against Penn State after their visit to the Terrapins.

Purdue won’t have the opportunity in the regular season to even its season series against Michigan, like it did Sunday against Michigan State, although the Wolverines and Spartans still have to play each other twice.

The Boilermakers are soaring after initially struggling through one of the 10 toughest schedules in the country. They went just 7-4 in their non-conference schedule as they frequently lost close games away from home to good opponents.

Purdue lost 89-83 to Virginia Tech in Charleston, 73-72 at Florida State, 72-68 at Texas and 88-80 to Notre Dame in Indianapolis. The loss to the Fighting Irish remains the Boilermakers’ only Quadrant 2 loss and Purdue’s win over Michigan State improved its record in Quadrant 1 games to 5-5.

The average NET ranking of the teams that have beaten Purdue is 30.

Here’s a look at Purdue’s resume after Sunday.

Quadrant 1 5-5
Quadrant 2 2-1
Quadrant 3 3-0
Quadrant 4 4-0

All season long, Purdue has been a team that has fared better in the predictive metrics of kenpom.com than the AP Top 25 poll or public perception, especially as the losses piled up without many good wins in the first two months of the season besides a home win over Maryland.

But the Boilermakers’ current winning streak, which started with a road win at Wisconsin and continued with their latest victory over Michigan State, has allowed them to climb to No. 7 on kenpom.com with the nation’s fourth-best adjusted offensive efficiency. The site projects Purdue to be favored in all of its remaining regular season games besides its road game at Nebraska on February 23.

After its worst non-conference record since it went 8-5 in the 2015 season, Purdue is beginning to look more like the team that advanced metrics have loved all season and one that could challenge Michigan and Michigan State for the Big Ten regular season crown.

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