For their last game before starting Big Ten Conference play, the Michigan State men’s basketball team hosted the New Orleans Privateers on Saturday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. With a stellar performance on both sides of the ball, the Spartans are looking more solid and in sync as they prepare for conference play. The Spartans pulled away with an easy win over the Privateers, winning 101-48.
The game started close, with the lead changing hands seven times in the first eight minutes. Then the Spartans broke loose going on a 17-3 scoring run in the first half. They went into half time with a comfortable lead of 17 points. In the second half, they came out dominating again, holding the Privateers to only 21 more points, finishing with an astounding lead at 101-48.
"We took some ill-timed shots that were outside of our game plan," New Orleans head coach Mark Slessinger said. "We wanted to shorten the game and make it almost a little ugly and really try to work the clock and try to get the best shot we could. We got out of our comfort zone and our game plan for this game and that allowed them to make runs."
As a team the Spartans were very much in tune. They notched 25 assist as a team out of 36 made shots. They out-rebounded New Orleans 54-31 and cut out their opponents passing lanes, limiting them to only nine assists for the game; forcing 15 turnovers and blocking six shots.
"I like the direction we're heading, “Spartan head coach Tom Izzo said. "I just need more consistency, but when you don't get practice with everybody for three weeks, you shouldn't be totally surprised by the lack of consistency."
Senior point guard Keith Appling led the Spartans in assists with eight, and scoring with 27, tying his career-high; 16 points came in the first half. This was especially impressive after his limited production in the Texas game last week where he was battling a hip pointer.
"I was able to get a couple of days off over Christmas break and rest up," Appling said. "That helped my body heal. Now, my hip feels 100 percent."
Appling certainly wasn’t alone out there as he had plenty of help from fellow starters. Gary Harris scored 19, shooting 7-17, notching five assists and nine boards. Adreian Payne followed suit with 17 points, two blocks, and seven boards. Denzel Valentine had a big day on the glass, leading the Spartans with 13 rebounds, notching 10 points and six assists.
The 11-1 Spartans will open conference play in State College, Pennsylvania against Penn State on Tuesday. The game starts at 5:00 pm Eastern Time and will air on the Big Ten Network.
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