Harris' hot shooting helps Michigan State in rout

Dana Gauruder, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Tom Izzo wasn't fazed by Gary Harris' recent shooting slump.
Harris, Michigan State's prized freshman, got the green light from his coach on Saturday to keep firing from long range.
Harris then turned his first Big Ten home game into a lights-out performance. He had a season-high 22 points, including six 3-pointers, as the Spartans overwhelmed the Purdue Boilermakers 84-61 at Breslin Center.
In his previous four games, Harris shot 3 of 19 from 3-point range. He made all but two of his long-range attempts on Saturday as his team bounced back from a 76-63 loss to No. 13 Minnesota in its conference opener on Monday.
"Izzo said to just keep shooting and they'll start going down," Harris said. "I was just able to knock down some shots early and once you see those shots go down early, the basket kind of gets a little bit bigger."
Harris missed two games in November with a shoulder injury and Izzo believes that the injury hasn't fully healed.
"Gary does have to be more aggressive," Izzo said. "It's funny, he's very aggressive defensively but since the injury he has not been as aggressive offensively. I think he'll find his niche but you go six for eight from the three, that makes a big difference for our team."
Sophomore Branden Dawson notched his fifth career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds while freshman Denzel Valentine added 11 points for No. 18 Michigan State (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten), which is 10-0 at home. Dawson had 10 of his points and eight of his rebounds after halftime.
"My teammates said 'B.J., we need you,' " Dawson said. "There were a couple of plays I could have made in the first half. In the second half, I just told myself 'Let's go. It's time to pick it up.' "
Freshman center A.J. Hammons led the Boilermakers with 20 points, tying his season high. Purdue (7-7, 1-1) began conference play with a 68-61 upset of No. 14 Illinois on Wednesday. The Boilermakers' leading scorer, junior Terone Johnson, had 25 points against the Illini but was limited to 11 points on 5 for 19 shooting on Saturday.
"He probably had two shots that were ill-advised," coach Matt Painter said. "His shots are sometimes unconventional but he makes those runners and those floaters. We want him as aggressive as possible but we don't want him to take on the world."
The game featured two of the conference's top rebounding teams and Michigan State won that battle 44-35. The Spartans were outrebounding opponents by 9.0 per game while the Boilermakers were averaging 8.7 more rebounds than their opponents.
Aggressive moves to the basket and free-throw shooting were critical to the Spartans' victory as they converted 17 of 20 foul shots in the second half. Michigan State also relied on its running game, holding a 16-6 advantage on fast-break points.
"They did a good job of getting in transition off tough shots, long rebounds or one of our turnovers," Painter said. "We just allowed way too many looks. Gary Harris killed us."
Purdue opened the second half with a 9-2 run, including an alley-oop dunk by Hammons, for a 39-38 edge. From there, the Spartans took control. They went on a 21-4 run that began with nine free throws. Harris hit a 3-pointer and Dawson converted a fast-break layup to finish it off for a 59-43 lead with 9:11 remaining.
Harris, whose previous high was 20 points against Loyola on Dec. 8, reached a new career best on a 3-pointer to make it 74-56.
Harris had 11 first-half points as the Spartans took a 36-30 halftime lead. Michigan State was averaging 4.6 3-pointers per game on 32 percent shooting but went 5 for 9 from long range in the first half, including three makes by Harris. The Boilermakers shot just 31.6 percent in the half but hung around behind D.J. Byrd's 11 points and the Spartans' seven turnovers.
Notes: Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has won his last 11 Big Ten home openers. ... The Boilermakers have used six starting lineups this season. ... The Spartans have the lowest ranking among the six Big Ten teams in the USA Today coaches' poll. ... Painter is 6-9 against the Spartans as Purdue's head coach. ... Terone and Ronnie Johnson are one of eight sets of brothers playing for the same Division I school this season. ... Purdue leads the all-time series 65-49 but MSU has won 20 of the last 30 meetings.

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