March 9, 2006
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Even a less-than-sharp Michigan State was too tough for Purdue's decimated Boilermakers.
"Sometimes we make stupid fouls, make poor decisions," Ager said of the Spartans' inability to keep a big lead in the closing minutes.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo called the Spartans "good in stretches," but he was otherwise not satisfied.
"I can't say I was extremely ecstatic about our play, and Purdue deserves some of the credit for that," Izzo said. "Yet in clutch times, these guys came through."
Suton, whose previous high was nine points against IPFW, had two big rebound baskets after the Boilermakers cut a 15-point deficit to six. The Spartans then got their last six points at the foul line, including the final two by Ager with 37 seconds left.
"Spartan basketball is playing with a lot of intensity, a lot of grit. We haven't played with it as much as we'd like to. But it's a new season," said Shannon Brown, who had 11 points and four assists for Michigan State.
The victory sent sixth-seeded Michigan State (21-10) into the quarterfinals Friday against No. 9-ranked Illinois, the third seed and the defending tournament champion. Illinois has reached the final game the past three years, winning in 2003 and 2005 and finishing second in 2004.
"We found a way to win, but we've got to get a lot better in the next 25 hours or so," Izzo said.
Purdue (9-19), which has never won the conference tournament and was seeded 11th, was eliminated in its first tourney game for the fifth straight year and finished 0-14 away from home this season despite 20 points by Gary Ware.
"We had a great effort," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "We've struggled shooting the basketball the past four or five games. It's too bad, because these guys have worked hard to get better."
The Boilermakers had four projected starters who were out with injuries or suspended most of the season, although they got one of them back with a surprise appearance by 270-pound freshman Nate Minnoy.
"I was going to try to play him a little bit to see how he looked out there," Painter said. "It's just hard in transition for him. ... He gave a great effort. He missed some shots but he was aggressive."
After nine lead changes, two baskets by Suton during a 9-2 run late in the first half helped break the game open for Michigan State. Matt Kiefer, who added 16 points for Purdue, hit two free throws for the Boilermakers' final lead at 20-19, but a dunk by Paul Davis put the Spartans on top for good with less than 6 minutes left before halftime.
"We were careless with the ball. That led them to getting out on the break," Kiefer said.
Purdue managed only two more baskets in the next 5 minutes, both by Ware, and Michigan State opened a 31-24 lead before Bryant Dillon scored on a rebound tip in the closing seconds of the period.
Minnoy, who had averaged 11 points a game before he tore a ligament in his knee in January, missed all four of his shots in 6 minutes in the first half and all five of his attempts in 7 minutes in the second period.
A basket and free throw by Brown and then a 3-pointer by Brown gave Michigan State its biggest lead at 49-34 before Kiefer and Ware led Purdue's brief comeback. Purdue, which lost 15 of its final 18 games this season, also got 13 points from Dillon.