The Boilermakers fell in a heartbreaker at Mackey Arena against Michigan State tonight by a score of 65-63.
At the beginning of the game, Michigan State and Purdue both traded baskets for the most part during the first quarter before the Spartans were able to get out to a 23-17 lead to end the first. Purdue was having trouble stopping Michigan State’s Taryn McCutcheon and Kayla Belles as both scored 6 each to put the Boilers behind.
After starting 0-4 from the floor, the second quarter gave the Boilers new life as they gave up just 4 points and held the Spartans to 1-12 shooting from the field. Purdue had a balanced scoring attack in the second quarter with Jenelle Grant scoring 5 and the duo of Harris and Hardin putting up 7 combined. The Boilers went on a 14-4 run over the course of the quarter and held Michigan State scoreless in the final 5:43 to close the first half and took a 31-27 lead into halftime.
Both teams came out in the second half and matched each others’ outputs throughout most of the third quarter. The Spartans made a small run at the end of the third quarter as they got two big steals and Tory Ozment hit two free throws in a layup in the final minute to tie the ball game up at 44 heading into the final quarter.
Purdue came out on fire to start the fourth, but so did the Spartans as neither team would back down. Michigan State has two players who played great down the stretch in Taryn McCutcheon and Nia Clouden who combined to score 14 of the Spartans 21 fourth-quarter points. On the flip side for the Boilermakers, Ae’Rianna Harris was dominant in the final stanza putting up 8 points.
After going down three, Kayla Belles, who had not attempted a three-pointer all season, hit a huge shot from deep to tie the game up for Michigan State with 2:33 left in the game. Each team scored once following that three, then Nia Clouden hit a tough jumper over Dominique Oden to put the Spartans up 2 with 21.7 seconds remaining. The Boilermakers responded with 10.5 seconds left after a layup by Jenelle Grant out of a timeout. To end the game, Michigan State leaned on Clouden once again and she delivered by hitting the game-winning shot with 2 seconds left to serve the Boilermakers the loss.
Karissa McLaughlin was back in the lineup tonight after missing the last two games with a leg injury and a concussion and was back to her old form. She played well in her return scoring 11 points on 5-11 shooting and drew a lot of attention from the Spartans which opened up opportunities for her teammates.
Ae’Rianna Harris had a great game herself putting up 20 points on 8-15 shooting from the field and added 9 rebounds to go along with 4 assists. Harris was the main source of offense for the Boilermakers throughout much of the game and wreaked havoc on the Spartans on the defensive end of the floor.
Two other Boilermakers who had solid games were forwards Fatou Diagne and Jenelle Grant. Diagne got her 6th start of the season tonight and has continued her consistent play of late scoring 7 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Grant came off the bench to score 9 points on an outstanding 80% clip. Both of the girls have found their specific role and thrived in them, they understand what is needed out of them and do what the team needs.
Purdue falls to 17-11 on the season and 8-8 in the Big Ten with just two games remaining before the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue will have probably their toughest task in conference play this year as they travel to Maryland next Tuesday to challenge the first place Terrapins. The Boilers will have to play flawlessly if they are going to come out of College Park with an upset win.