WEST LAFAYETTE – It's difficult to overstate how thoroughly Purdue outplayed Michigan State today. There was not a flaw in the Boilermakers' performance, not one aspect of the game that they could really point to as needing to be cleaned up. Against a Spartans team that came in as one of the hottest teams in the country, Purdue played better offensively, defensively and on the boards and were the more poised team in big moments. The Boilers frustrated Cassius Winston, the Big Ten Player of the Year, to a degree no other team this season has and led wire to wire for a 71-42 victory over the No. 8 team in the country.
The beatdown was so thorough that it put MSU coach Tom Izzo in a semi-joking mood in his postgame press conference.
"It sounds like I'm making fun of (the result), but it's only so I don't jump out of the plane on the way home," Izzo said. "I don't feel very good. I feel embarrassed."
This is the second straight year that a highly-ranked Michigan State team has come to Mackey Arena to face a Purdue team that was flying under the national radar. Both times, the Boilermakers put together a head-turning performance and earned a huge, confidence-building victory. After consecutive losses to Illinois and Michigan, the Boilers needed a good showing today to get back on track. They got a great one and the gap between today's 29-point win and the 26-point loss to Illinois exactly a week ago seems like a chasm. This team refocused itself after that debacle against the Illini and has played all-out for two straight games.
"The game at Illinois has to be an outlier for us," Painter said. "That can't rear it's ugly head again. ... You have that game against Illinois and then if you don't respond when you go to Michigan, you have some real trouble. We just gotta keep building our fight."
Of course, it's possible to read too much into this one game. As Izzo pointed out, Purdue can't really play better than this. According to the Boilermakers' stats and info department, there have been 15 games in the last three seasons where a top 25 team has lost by 25 or more. Four times, the winner in those games has been Purdue. No other team has put together that kind of performance more than twice in that span. In essence, this is just what the Boilers do against elite opponents at Mackey Arena (as Virginia also knows all too well). Finding a way to put together some semblance of this level of effort, focus and attention to detail (Purdue did not turn the ball over for the first 19:11 of this game, which might trump any other stat for showing how locked in the Boilers were today) will be the key going forward.
After that rousing victory, Purdue gets five days off – its longest stretch during the Big Ten schedule – to rest and recharge before traveling to Maryland to take on the No. 12 Terps. That will be the Boilermakers' next chance to prove that they can take the show they put on today on the road. Doing so has eluded them (and just about every other Big Ten team) this season, but that is the next step for this team as it tries to climb back into the conference race.
Painter said the team will take two days off (he doesn't like to practice more than three days in a row before a game) and he's hoping that Matt Haarms, who scored six points and grabbed five rebounds in 11 minutes today on a gimpy hip, will be able to get fully healthy for the matchup against Maryland. Getting a win like this before such a long break can be good for a team's morale because the feeling of success can linger for a few days, but the Boilers want more.
"(This win) says that we're not going to quit," said Evan Boudreaux, who had 11 points and was 3 for 5 from 3-point range. "We're 10-7, but we don't feel like we should be. We feel like we have a lot more fight. The rest of the season we feel we have a chance to turn it around. We're looking forward to every game as a dogfight and I think we're excited to move on and get to the next one."