EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown prevented Michigan State from falling apart for the second straight game.
Ager had 19 of his 22 points in the second half and Brown scored a career-high 20 to help the 19th-ranked Spartans get past Purdue 71-64 Tuesday night.
“Thank God that Shannon Brown played probably his best game as a Spartan,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “And thank God, Maurice Ager had a phenomenal second half.”
The Spartans (11-3, 3-1 Big Ten) looked sluggish early, still reeling from their collapse at Wisconsin on Sunday, before riding Ager’s sharp shooting late in the game for their eighth win in nine games.
Carl Landry scored a career-high 31 points for Purdue (4-11, 0-5) and David Teague had 13. The Boilermakers are 0-5 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 1962-63 season.
“We’re getting better, inch by inch,” Purdue coach Gene Keady said. “I wish it were a yard or so every once in a while.”
The Spartans led by 13 early in the second half before the Boilermakers rallied. Purdue went on a 15-3 run to pull to 43-42 with 9:16 left.
Sparked by his steal and dunk, Ager then scored 10 of 11 points for the Spartans over the next three-plus minutes and 17 of their next 22 points.
“That steal defines what coach Izzo is trying to get us to do,” Ager said. “He’s always talking about how good defense leads to offense.”
Despite Ager’s shooting, the Spartans struggled to build a lead larger than six because they couldn’t stop Purdue, especially Landry near the basket.
“We couldn’t guard the post with a fish net,” Izzo said. “Either we are not very good in there, or we saw the new MVP of the league.”
Michigan State finally stopped Purdue in the final minute after Ager ended his scoring barrage with a 3-pointer with 1:11 left.
Ager was 1-of-3 in the first half before finishing 7-of-11—including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers—and making five of six free throws. He tied his season high and fell two points short of his career high.
“He did a great job making baskets when they needed them,” Keady said.
Both teams were coming off heartbreaking setbacks.
Michigan State blew an eight-point lead in the final 1:55 in a loss Sunday at Wisconsin, and Purdue lost in double-overtime to Indiana at home Saturday.
“I don’t use Wisconsin as an excuse—it’s a reality,” Izzo said. “We not only had a tough loss, we were beaten up a bit.”
After a slow start Tuesday, the Spartans held Purdue without a field goal for 8:30 late in the first half and went on an 18-4 run, helping them lead 36-27 at halftime.
Keady, who will retire after the season, was given a standing ovation and a gift before the game. Keady and his wife will join close friend and former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote and his wife for a weekend of golf, sailing and dining at Bay Harbor in northern Michigan this summer.
“I thought it was beautiful and I appreciate the gift,” said Keady, who is in his 25th season at Purdue and 27th overall.