EAST LANSING, Mich. – No. 2 Michigan State tuned up for its highly anticipated game against top-ranked Kentucky with a season-opening rout.
Gary Harris scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half and finished with a career-high 10 rebounds, helping the Spartans beat McNeese State 98-56 Friday to get ready for their next game, against the Wildcats.
Michigan State (1-0) scored 10 straight points after trailing 13-12 early in the game and opened the second half with an 11-0 run to take a 63-25 lead.
Ledrick Eackles and Jamaya Burr led the Cowboys (0-1) with 11 points each.
The Spartans kept multiple starters in the game until there were 5 minutes left, when Branden Dawson made a second straight dunk. They will face much tougher competition against Kentucky in Chicago.
Moments after the game in East Lansing, McNeese State coach Dave Simmons said he’s looking forward to Tuesday’s game.
A lot of college basketball fans are, too.
Michigan State had six scorers in double figures and outscored the Cowboys 66-29.
Branden Dawson scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Denzel Valentine had 12 points Keith Appling and Travis Trice each scored 11. Trice also had a career-high eight assists and Dawson had five assists, the most of his career.
The Spartans made 52 percent of their shots and held McNeese State to 27.4 percent shooting, playing better at both ends of the court after a shaky start.
Michigan State had some success early – making its first two shots, both 3-pointers – before struggling to make open shots and get the ball into open spaces against the Cowboys’ zone.
That led to McNeese State taking the lead, briefly, before getting outscored 40-12 the rest of the first half. The Spartans turned a 52-25 lead at halftime into a 38-point cushion.
Simmons said he knew Michigan State was a good team, but he didn’t expect the Spartans do be as good as they were in transition.
Michigan State scored 40 points on the fast break and turned 18 offensive rebounds into 23 second-chance points.