EAST LANSING, Mich. – Eric Hunter Jr. talked to Trevion Williams at halftime of Purdue's game against No. 23 Michigan State on Friday and told him the big man needed to take over the game.
“I just told (Williams), 'You know what time it is,'” Hunter said. “You're our guy, this is your time to be our guy.”
Williams poured in 24 points in the final 20 minutes and completed a 17-point Purdue comeback with a tear-drop basket with four seconds remaining to give the Boilermakers a 55-54 victory over the Spartans at the Breslin Center.
The junior center finished with 26 points and nine rebounds while no other Purdue player had more than seven points.
It was the first road win of the season for Purdue (8-5, 3-3 Big Ten) after four straight losses.
“We all know we're capable of competing against anyone in the country,” Williams said. “I believe in our team more than anybody in the world, really. All we can do is build off this.”
The Boilermakers trailed by four with 19 seconds remaining, but made every play down the stretch. First, Hunter drove to the basket and earned a couple of free throws, hitting both.
Purdue then pressured the inbounds pass and Hunter deflected the ball off Michigan State's Rocket Watts for a turnover.
On the Boilermakers' ensuing possession, Williams went to the rim and got fouled, only to split his free throws. The second foul shot bounced away, but Purdue's Zach Edey and Mason Gillis simultaneously dove on the floor and got a jump ball with the possession arrow in the Boilers' favor.
Purdue, trailing 54-53, had a chance to win the game with six seconds remaining. The Boilermakers ran a play with several options and Hunter found Williams with the inbounds pass for an 8-foot floater that dropped.
“Everybody knew the ball was going to me, so I just wanted to take my time with it,” Williams said. “I started out screening to the opposite corner, then I came back to the rim, came back to the ball. ... We just executed the play well.”
Aaron Henry's running jumper from 17 feet at the buzzer bounced off the rim and Purdue celebrated, with Williams at the center of the scrum pointing to the small contingent of Boilermaker family members in the stands.
Purdue was stifled by a terrific Michigan State perimeter defense in the first half. The Boilermakers went 0 for 12 from 3-point range and shot just 26% in the first 20 minutes as the Spartans (8-4, 2-4) went into the locker room ahead 31-16.
The lead ballooned to 17 early in the second half, then Williams went to work. He fought through double teams and a near-total lack of outside shooting – Purdue hit 3 of 24 from beyond the arc in the game – to post his best game since a 36-point, 20-rebound performance at Michigan 364 days earlier.
For much of the second half, Purdue's offense consisted solely of clearing the floor and finding a way to get the ball to the preseason All-Big Ten center.
“(Williams) played a hell of a game,” said Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, who had six points and six rebounds. “I knew (his last shot) was going in. ... He got himself going in the second half and no one could stop him. He's a big dude and no one could compete with him.”
The Boilermakers also tightened up defensively after halftime, limiting the Spartans to 22.2% shooting in the second half and holding them without a field goal for more than 12 minutes. Purdue also won the rebounding battle 37-31, one game after Michigan State had out-rebounded Rutgers 43-21.