EAST LANSING – The Purdue Boilermakers (8-5, 3-3 Big Ten) pulled off a miracle comeback at No. 23 Michigan State (8-4, 2-4 Big Ten) after a key defensive play, and an offensive rebound after a missed free throw and a clutch game-winning shot.
Down 15 at the break, Purdue started the second half with junior forward Aaron Wheeler taking the place of freshman forward Mason Gillis at the power forward spot.
The duo of Wheeler and junior forward Trevion Williams gave the Boilers the length and outside shooting to cut the lead to single digits at the start of the second half. Then Purdue was able to eventually tie the game at 43 with 6:25 to go on a Brandon Newman layup.
The Spartans regained the lead, 44-43, on 1 of 2 from the line by Rocket Watts with 5:37 to go. By the 3:45 mark, State went up 48-43 on a pair of free throws by AJ Hoggard.
Both teams battled for the next 3 minutes plus, but State maintained the lead throughout. With 19 seconds left Aaron Henry made 1 of 2 at the line to make the margin, 54-50. Then came the Purdue comeback.
Eric Hunter Jr. made 2 free throws with 11 seconds left making it 54-52. On MSU's inbound attempt a couple of things happened to Purdue's advantage. Newman denied the inbounds pass and then Hunter Jr. got the steal with 9 seconds left.
"Normally we are terrible at denying right there," said Purdue coach Matt Painter. "We’re not a pressing team. So when we go and say ‘hey don’t let them catch’ somebody lets them catch. And Brandon did not let Aaron Henry catch and then Eric (Hunter Jr.) is the one who made that play.:
Two seconds later Williams was fouled by Henry, but only made 1 of 2 from the line. A deep rebound got tied up and it was the Boilers possession.
That set up the heroics for Williams, who hit a jumper with 4 seconds left to give Purdue's its first lead since early in the game, 55-54.
Henry missed a baseline jumper at the buzzer ensuring Purdue's come-from-behind win.
Painter said Williams' heroics was just one of many options on the successful inbounds play.
"There was a couple of options out of it," Painter said. "The one option got nullified because there was a scrum in the middle of the court. They just held us. It’s not worth talking about because you don’t want to talk about plays and other options and stuff like that when you don’t run them and save them for certain times.
"That was the option at the end of him just stepping into that area after a lot of screens and cuts. There were a lot of options to the play, but you couldn’t see because we were being held. Go back and watch it, you’ll see it."
Williams said the reason Purdue won this game was simple: He was able to make his free throws and keep calm, cool, and collected in the post. That allowed him to bury the game-winning shot in the final seconds.
"We just had to talk amongst each other," Williams said about the changes the team made before the second half. "We all know we're capable of competing against anybody in the country, and at some point you just have to take pride and guard your man. We managed to clean our defense up and come up with a win."
Hunter Jr. focused on the importance of winning against ranked teams such as Michigan State. Such an important win can give the Boilers confidence as a team when facing some of the Big Ten's top teams.
The Spartans' bench continued to provide an electric environment for their players on the floor, with their chants and cheers on the sidelines giving their players the motivation they needed to play a physical brand of basketball to keep the Spartans within a competitive range of the Boilers.
Painter was able to comment on how important contributions off the bench were to today's win and wins in the future.
"A lot of times, (the bench) is able to play off their scoring," Painter said. "If they score well, they play well, and once they're able to see their potential and have a great road win like this, hopefully it can build confidence in other areas for our players."
For Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, the loss was a bitter one.
"We didn’t deserve to win – they deserved to win because they made winning plays," Izzo said. "We had three great free throw shooters with Aaron (Henry) and Joey (Hauser) and Rock (Watts) and each one of them missed the second of two shots."
For the veteran Spartan coach, missed free throws, turnovers and the related lack of offensive flow that came with it. And, there was Purdue's Williams, too.
"I think you have to give a lot of credit to Trevion Williams, Izzo said. "I love the kid. He plays hard, keeps his mouth shut. He plays well against Michigan and Michigan State – deservingly so – and he was the difference in the game."
Purdue returns to action at 7 p.m., Thursday when it visits Indiana. The game will be broadcast on FoxSports1. The game will mark Purdue's fourth straight game on the road since the Jan. 5 game against Nebraska was postponed. The first two were losses at No. 14 Rutgers and No. 15 Illinois.
• Williams led the Boilers in scoring with 26 points. He single-handedly scored more points in the second half – when he tallied 24 of his 26 – than Michigan State (23 second-half points). Williams was the only double-figure scorer for Purdue.
• Aaron Henry led MSU in scoring with 13. Josh Langford had 10.
• Each team had one starter not score – Gillis for Purdue, Thomas Kithier for State.
• MSU's bench outscored Purdue's, 19-17.
• 12 players saw action for the Spartans in tonight's game, including two freshmen in center Mady Sissiko and guard A.J. Hoggard.
• Of the 10 players Purdue used in its rotation, five of them were freshmen. Guard Brandon Newman logged the most minutes with 22.
• Purdue ended the game with 21 fouls while MSU had 22.
• The Spartans shot 3 for 13 from the 3-point line, while the Boilers made 3 of their 24 attempts.
• Both teams had 14 turnovers.
• Purdue out-rebounded Michigan State, 37-31. Williams led Purdue with 9 while Henry had 7.
• After shooting 26.1% in the first half, Purdue shot 39.4% in the second. Michigan State shot 52.2% in the first and 22.2% in the second.
• Purdue outscored MSU 28-12 in the paint.
• Michigan State had 9 blocks to Purdue's 3.
• Purdue led 1:09 of the 40-minute game. The Boilers' biggest lead was 1 while the Spartans led by 17 at one point.
• Matt Painter passed former Purdue coach Ward Lambert for second all-time in coached games for the Boilermakers with 524.
• Spartans head coach Tom Izzo and Painter combine for 1,005 career wins in 43 seasons. They rank second and eighth on the Big Ten's all-time wins record respectively.
• Purdue improved to 8-5 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten with a 55-54 win over No. 23-ranked Michigan State at the Breslin Center.
• The win was Purdue’s third straight over Michigan State and first in the Breslin Center since the 2016-17 season. It’s the first time since March 1993 to Feb. 1997 (7 straight wins) that Purdue has won three straight games against the Spartans.
• Purdue has won five of the last seven meetings with Michigan State.
• In the last two meetings against Purdue, Michigan State is averaging 48.0 points per game.
• Purdue’s 15-point second-half rally (trailed 31-16 with 20:00 left in the second half) was its largest second-half rally against a Big Ten team since Feb. 23, 1987, against No. 14-ranked Illinois (trailed 46-30 with 11:57 left – won 76-75 in overtime).
• The win marks the first win in East Lansing as an unranked Purdue team against a ranked Michigan State team ever.
• The win was Purdue’s 21st win over a ranked team since the start of the 2016-17 season, good for ninth nationally.
• Purdue is now 157-7 under Matt Painter when holding opponents to 59 or fewer points.
• In four games against Michigan State, Trevion Williams is averaging 14.8 PPG and 8.5 RPG while shooting 23-of-44 from the field.
The Michigan State Spartans (8-3, 2-3 Big Ten) were able to use their size and athleticism to take a 31-16 lead over the Boilers (7-5, 2-3 Big Ten) at the half.
The Boilers had a slow start of offense against an oversized Michigan State lineup, making one of their first six shots while grabbing just two rebounds.
While Purdue's defense and free throws initially kept them within striking distance of the Spartans throughout the half, limiting the Spartans to 33% from three, a 13-0 Spartan scoring run in the middle of the first half gave the Spartans a commanding 15 point lead over Purdue, one they would hold on to at the end of the first half.
The Spartans limited the Boilers to just 26% shooting in the half while forcing seven fouls and eight turnovers.
Freshman center Zach Edey used his 7'4" frame to make an impact on both sides of the floor, contesting shots against the smaller Spartan centers while scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds in 11 minutes of play.
Michigan State's experienced lineup, including long time Spartans in graduate guard Joshua Langford, junior forward Joey Hauser, and junior forward Aaron Henry, used their size, athleticism and experience to find creative ways around Purdue's defense, move the ball and get players involved, and grabbed missed shots from both sides.
The three players ended the half with 18 points on 55% shooting while grabbing eight rebounds. They accounted for 58% of MSU's points and 53% of their rebounds.
Freshman guard Jaden Ivey leads the Boilers in scoring with 6 points.
– Purdue Athletics contributed to this report.