WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Michigan State sophomore guard Gary Harris led the 13th-ranked Spartans’ 3-point shooting barrage Thursday night in a 94-79 victory against the Purdue Boilermakers.
Harris made a career-best six 3-pointers — his previous best was five last season against the Boilermakers — and he finished with 25 points on a night when the Spartans made a season-high 17 shots from beyond the arc.
“We need Gary Harris to shoot the ball well,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who also said that Harris asked to go from the team hotel to Mackey Arena an hour before his teammates in order to get in more pregame shooting.
That request obviously paid dividends for the Spartans, who came to Mackey Arena having lost four of their seven most recent games.
“Two of the ones Adreian Payne made and two of the ones Gary Harris made were just really tough shots,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We obviously were trying to stay with them, but it was impressive. They showed how skilled they are offensively. When they bring a guy back from injury like Brendan Dawson, and Keith Appling is back but is not even 100 percent, you really can see where their ceiling can be.”
The 17 made 3-pointers also are a single-game record by a Purdue opponent, replacing the 15 made by Penn State on Feb. 17, 2001, and by Illinois on March 3, 2005.
Michigan State (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) was coming off a shocking 60-51 loss to Nebraska on Sunday. In that game, the Spartans made only five of 24 attempts from beyond the arc. They bounced back Thursday to take a half-game lead on No. 20 Michigan for first place in the conference heading into a Sunday showdown at Ann Arbor.
The Spartans were dialed in at Purdue’s Mackey Arena, finishing 17 of 32 from 3-point range. Center Adreian Payne added 23 for Michigan State, which trailed only once, 5-3 early in the game.
Harris, Payne and guard Travis Trice combined to make 14 of 23 attempts from beyond the arc.
Purdue sophomore guard Rapheal Davis, who had 13 points, said credit must go to Harris.
“He read the screens real well,” Davis said. “We made him work hard for those shots, but he is just a very skilled player.”
Guard Denzel Valentine added 16 points for Michigan State, and Trice scored 14. Appling, the point guard who had been battling a wrist injury, recorded nine assists.
“We get 26 assists on 30 baskets,” Izzo said as he scanned the final box score. “We turned the ball over 11 times, but that is decent against a team that plays as hard and as physical as Purdue does.
“And obviously, we got some things out of Gary Harris. The way we shot tonight is fun to coach.
“On Sunday, we shot 32 percent and looked like Syracuse against Boston College on Wednesday night. Tonight, I didn’t think we took any bad shots. When the ball goes in the basket like it did tonight, at the end of the day, everything looks better.”
Purdue (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) got a career-best 19 points from freshman guard Kendall Stephens and 17 from sophomore point guard Ronnie Johnson. Davis came off the bench to score 13 points for the Boilermakers.
Purdue shot a respectable 49 percent from the field (24 of 49), but the Spartans hit a blistering 57.7 percent (30 of 52). Michigan State won in Mackey Arena for the third consecutive season.
“It’s frustrating,” Stephens said when asked how the Boilermakers reacted when Michigan State hit 3-pointers almost any time it needed one. “The bottom line is that we needed to do a better job on their shooters, and we didn’t.”
Michigan State sank 10 of its first 14 field-goal attempts, including nine of 12 from 3-point range, on its way to a 49-38 halftime lead. The Spartans finished the half 14 of 22 from the floor, including 13 of 19 from long distance.
At one point in the first half, the Spartans had 12 field goals, 11 of them from beyond the arc.
Payne set the tone by making a trey on the game’s first possession, and the Spartans added to their perimeter assault with six
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