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March 9, 2006

Michigan State advances in Big Ten

INDIANAPOLIS Maurice Ager scored 20 points and redshirt freshman Goran Suton had a career-high 12 points as Michigan State held off Purdue 70-58 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday night.

Suton, whose previous high was nine points against IPFW, had two big rebound baskets after the Boilermakers cut a 15-point deficit to six in the closing minutes. The Spartans then got their last six points at the foul line, including the final two by Ager with 37 seconds left.

The victory sent sixth-seeded Michigan State (21-10) into the quarterfinals on Friday against No. 9-ranked Illinois, the third seed and the defending tournament champion. Illinois has reached the final game the past three years, winning in 2003 and 2005 and finishing second in 2004.

Purdue (9-19), which has never won the conference tournament and was seeded 11th, was eliminated in its first tourney game for the fifth straight year and finished 0-14 away from home this season despite 20 points by Gary Ware.

The Boilermakers had four projected starters who were out with injuries or suspended most of the season, although they got one of them back with a surprise appearance by 270-pound freshman Nate Minnoy. The Spartans hardly noticed.

After nine lead changes, two baskets by Suton during a 9-2 run late in the first half helped break the game open for Michigan State. Matt Kiefer, who added 16 points for Purdue, hit two free throws for the Boilermakers' final lead at 20-19, but a dunk by Paul Davis put the Spartans on top for good with under 6 minutes left before halftime.

Purdue managed only two more baskets in the next 5 minutes, both by Ware, and Michigan State opened a 31-24 lead before Bryant Dillon scored on a rebound tip in the closing seconds of the period.

Minnoy, who had averaged 11 points a game before he tore a ligament in his knee in January, missed all four of his shots in 6 minutes in the first half and all five of his attempts in 7 minutes in the second period.

A basket and free throw by Shannon Brown and then a 3-pointer by Brown gave Michigan State its biggest lead at 49-34 before Kiefer and Ware led Purdue's brief comeback. Purdue, which lost 15 of its final 18 games this season, also got 13 points from Dillon.

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For more coverage of the Purdue Boilermakers, check out GoldandBlack.com.
For more coverage of the Michigan State Spartans, check out Spartanmag.com.

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