EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Tom Izzo said Michigan State got punched in the mouth and didn’t hit back.
But his sixth-ranked Spartans covered up long enough for a 78-75 victory over Purdue on Tuesday night, thanks to some unlikely offense from their toughest player.
Travis Walton hit his only basket of the game, an uncontested 15-footer with 20 seconds left, then grabbed a rebound and added two free throws to give Michigan State (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten) its 11th straight win.
“Players play, tough players win,” Izzo said, repeating one of his favorite sayings. “The toughest team lost by a couple of points tonight, and that wasn’t us.”
“They took our car from us, and that can’t happen,” Walton said after giving all the credit for his basket to ball rotation and a pass from Raymar Morgan.
Reserve Kalin Lucas scored 16 points, Durrell Summers had 15 and Morgan added 14 for the Spartans, who shot 61 percent from the field.
“The stats were very misleading,” Izzo said. “It was probably the strangest game I’ve ever seen that way. But I’ve been telling you for a couple of weeks that I wasn’t pleased. Tonight, you got an eyeful of why.”
The Spartans built a 16-point lead in the first half, then fell behind by five with 5:52 left. It was tied at 73 when Goran Suton grabbed Walton’s miss for the last of his 10 rebounds and hit one free throw for his 12th point.
“The play of the game was Suton’s rebound,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We had two guys there, but Suton wanted that ball.”
Chris Kramer had 19 points and Nemanja Calasan added 18 for the Boilermakers (10-5, 1-1), who played without No. 3 scorer and top rebounder Robbie Hummel, who was sidelined with flu symptoms.
Keaton Grant and E’Twaun Moore both had 12 points for Purdue, which shot 57.1 percent in the second half after hitting just 28.6 percent in the first half.
Kramer had 15 points in the second half and Calasan added 12 for the Boilermakers, who trailed 39-30 at halftime.
Purdue hit just three of its first 15 shots, as Lucas outscored the Boilermakers 10-9 over the first 11:34.
Trailing 29-13, Marcus Green, a 15 percent shooter beyond the arc, got Purdue back in the game with consecutive 3s before Calasan went to work inside and outside.
“We got off to such a good start, then relaxed and didn’t defend,” Suton said. “I think Coach is right about us. We didn’t respond the way we should have.”
The Boilermakers took a 47-45 lead on a layup by Calasan and built the lead to five on a 3 by Grant. After Michigan State rallied to take a 62-56 lead, but Purdue scored eight straight points, six by Kramer, to go up 68-64.
The Spartans trailed 72-69 when slumping preseason All-American Drew Neitzel hit an 18-footer and Morgan added two free throws.
After Scott Martin tied it with a free throw, Michigan State finally pulled ahead to stay on Suton’s free throw.
Walton’s second shot of the game, an open 15-footer from the left corner, made it 76-73. He added two free throws after the Boilermakers’ last miss to seal the win.
“I’m proud of our effort, though we played like our hair was on fire in first few minutes,” Painter said. “We played hard, but we still got beat.”
The Spartans had a 34-26 edge in rebounds but committed 17 turnovers to just seven for Purdue.
“I have to give credit to Travis, our toughest player by far,” Izzo said. “He hit a big, big shot. But Michigan State has a lot of work to do.”