WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo called out his star player at halftime Sunday.
Draymond Green's response exceeded even Izzo's expectations.
Green scored 20 points, had 10 rebounds, seven assists and almost single-handedly shut down Purdue's Robbie Hummel in the second half, leading No. 7 Michigan State to a key 76-62 victory over the short-handed Boilermakers.
"I told him 'We're going to put the team on your back,' and boy did he answer the bell," Izzo said. "We wanted the ball in his hands a lot, and we put it there. I just thought he made some big-time plays."
Green's spirited effort couldn't have come at a better time for the Spartans, either.
Sunday's victory gives Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) a one-game lead in the conference title race over No. 6 Ohio State and No. 17 Michigan with four games remaining -- at Minnesota, home against Nebraska, at No. 18 Indiana and a season-ending rematch in East Lansing against the Buckeyes.
And the Spartans are in the driver's seat thanks to Green.
The senior forward scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half, and more importantly figure out how to limit Hummel's scoring chances without getting into foul trouble. It was something he heard about at halftime.
"He (Izzo) said 'I'm challenging you, you gave up 18 points and that's not all you, but that is your man,'" Green said. "You know that's inexcusable. You can't give up 18 points to anyone in a half."
When Green and the Spartans returned for the second half, they made the necessary changes and reverted to their more traditional form of tough, physical defense with a dominating performance on the glass.
Without two of their top scorers, the Boilermakers (17-10, 7-7) had no chance to recover. Hummel finished with 24 points, only six in the second half, and Lewis Jackson had 15, but the Boilermakers were doomed after going 1 of 23 from the field to open the second half.
Sure, things might have turned out differently if Purdue had starting guard Kelsey Barlow and key swingman D.J. Byrd helping out. But they weren't around. Barlow was booted off the team Friday and Byrd was suspended for this game following an incident outside a local bar. It was a damaging blow to a team still needing wins to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee.
"Distractions kill you," Izzo said. "The job he (Purdue coach Matt Painter) and his staff did to get his team ready to play under the circumstance was incredible. I say that not out of liking somebody, I say it out of experience. Been there and done that. I give Matt and his staff and Hummel, what a warrior, a lot of credit for what they did because they outplayed us for over half that game."
Hummel desperately tried to keep his team close after going 0 for 11 from the field and finishing with only two points in an 83-58 loss last month at East Lansing. The senior class was trying to pick up its 100th career win, and Purdue was looking for its first three-game winning streak since November.
The abysmal second-half shooting thwarted any chance.
"I thought we got a lot of good shots around the rim," Hummel said.
They just didn't fall.
Hummel rallied the Boilermakers after Michigan State went on an early 10-0 run and by halftime, Hummel had the Boilermakers in front 38-35 against a team that was allowing only 58.5 points per game.
But when Izzo went to the locker room, he challenged Green and his teammates to start playing Michigan State defense.
"It was like 'What's going on here? This is not us,'" said Austin Thornton, who had a career-high 17 points. "We've been a very, very, very good defensive team this year, and we had to make some adjustments, which we discussed at halftime."
The changes flipped the game.
Thornton opened the second half with a mid-range jumper and Derrick Nix followed that with a layup to make it 39-38. Keith Appling then hit 1 of 2 free throws, Brandon Wood knocked down a 3-pointer and Thornton scored on a putback to make it 45-38 with 14:35 to go.
Hummel finally broke the shutout with two free throws and Ryne Smith knocked down a 3-pointer, Purdue's first basket of the second half, with 13:05 to go to make it 45-43.
Then Michigan State went on a 17-3 run to build a 62-46 lead with 7:09 left, and Purdue never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
''We were as upset as coach was with the first half, and a lot of that was my fault," Green said. "So he did challenge me, and we responded."
Follow Michael Marot on Twitter @apmarot