EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Tom Izzo made his Michigan State team wait until the regular season was over to celebrate its Big Ten championship.
It was worth the delay for the No. 8 Spartans, who beat No. 19 Purdue 62-51 on Sunday and are headed into the postseason on a five-game winning streak.
Kalin Lucas scored 21 points to pace the Spartans, who finished the regular season with a four-game lead over second-place Illinois and Purdue.
“This was one incredible memory-maker,” Izzo said after a post-game Senior Day and championship celebration that took nearly an hour.
The Spartans (25-5, 15-3 Big Ten) had clinched a share of the title a week ago at Illinois and claimed the crown outright after winning at Indiana on Tuesday. But Izzo opted to delay the celebration until the team was back home in front of a sellout crowd at the Breslin Center.
This season’s title is the first for Michigan State since 2001 and its first outright crown since 1999.
The Spartans’ performance against the scrappy Boilermakers (22-9, 11-7) should make the Spartans a heavy favorite to win the conference tournament as well.
Michigan State scored nine straight points early in the second half to break open a tight game. The Spartans pushed the lead to as many as 14 late.
JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore each scored 12 points for Purdue, which shot only 28.3 percent from the floor. The loss drops the Boilermakers to the third seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament behind Michigan State and Illinois.
Goran Suton, one of four seniors playing in his final game at Breslin Center, scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Michigan State.
A good showing in Indianapolis at the conference tournament would strengthen the Spartans’ case for a high seed in the NCAA tournament, and Izzo already is lobbying to get as many Big Ten teams in as possible.
“I just hope on selection Sunday this conference gets what it deserves,” Izzo said. “This conference was really good this year, and that makes it all the more special.”
The Boilermakers were coming off a 64-61 loss to visiting Northwestern, one night after the Spartans had clinched the outright title.
“It’s a disappointing finish, to be honest with you,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Our goal was to win the Big Ten championship and we didn’t do that.”
Michigan State’s only Big Ten road loss came in West Lafayette on Feb. 17, when Purdue held the Spartans to a season-low 32.7 percent shooting in a 72-54 win. The Spartans haven’t lost since.
Michigan State freshman Delvon Roe scored back-to-back baskets and a free throw to give the Spartans a 38-33 lead with 12:59 remaining. Lucas and Raymar Morgan hit jumpers to put Michigan State ahead 42-33 with about 11 minutes left.
The Spartans expanded their lead to 12 points and then held off Purdue down the stretch.
Michigan State outrebounded Purdue 50-32, taking advantage of the Boilermakers’ poor shooting. “Michigan State is a good defensive team … and you can’t keep them off the glass,” Painter said.
Painter said he was concerned about his team’s cold shooting but he does not envision any changes in strategy headed into the postseason.
“I think we got good looks,” Purdue’s Robbie Hummel said. “We just couldn’t make shots.”
Purdue led 31-29 at halftime, a hard-fought 20 minutes that featured 10 ties and six lead changes. The biggest lead in the half was four points, with Michigan State holding a 24-20 edge with about 5:46 left.
Michigan State seniors Suton, Travis Walton, Marquise Gray and Idong Ibok played their final game Sunday at Breslin Center. The four players, who have a 97-38 record during their careers, were honored in a ceremony after the game.