EAST LANSING − Gabby Elliott and the Michigan State women's basketball team felt the urgency as they faced a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter Monday night.
And that urgency led to an inspired finish.
Elliott was one of the key cogs in a late push that helped the Spartans erase a 16-point second-half deficit and rally to force overtime in their Big Ten opener against Purdue at Breslin Center.
But in the end, MSU couldn't pull off the win and saw its losing streak hit four with a 76-71 loss to the Boilermakers.
Monday's setback was the third straight tight loss for the Spartans and coach Suzy Merchant hopes it's a lesson that will lead to more urgency on the court going forward.
"It was the same people that played a lot of the minutes early in the game and it was the same offense," Merchant said of her team's late push. "It was the same defense. We just did it with more competitiveness, urgency and toughness and grit. It's not hard to figure out.
"Hopefully they can kind of see what that felt like it. At some point you've got to get sick and tired of being close and not winning games and leaving points at the free-throw line and missing a defensive rebound or a layup."
Kamara McDaniel finished with a team-high 22 points — her third straight game with at least 20 points — and hit the game-tying shot in the final seconds to help the Spartans (6-4, 0-1 Big Ten) force overtime.
Elliott scored 11 of her 13 points during the fourth-quarter push, including a basket that pulled MSU even in the final minutes of regulation.
Purdue (8-1, 1-0) scored the first four points of overtime and never trailed after. The Boilermakers got a pair of big offensive rebounds in the extra session and went 9 of 9 from the free-throw line while closing out the win.
MSU shot just 53.8% (14 of 24) from the free-throw line and lost despite forcing 30 turnovers.
"You've got to take advantage of that," Merchant said of the free-throw shooting. "People got to be able to knock down free throws. Again, you don't have to be perfect, but you can't shoot 58%. You fight so hard and put a lot of pressure on them playing downhill and we're getting the opportunity to get there. It's kind of defeating sometimes when you get there and you finally get the opportunity to stop the clock and put points on the board — that's where we couldn't always take advantage of it."
Purdue shot 70% in the second quarter and then 57.1% in the third while pushing its lead to double figures.
That's when the urgency picked up and the Spartans put things together behind McDaniel and Elliott.
Now the challenge is finding a way to do what they did in the final quarter throughout the duration of the game.
"We aren't light switches or robots and we've just got to figure out how we can play 40 minutes strong," Elliott said. "We clearly can play six minutes. If we just extend it we'll be a whole different team."
Contact Brian Calloway at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Michigan State women's basketball falls to Purdue in overtime