EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo loves his team’s unselfishness and wants his players to have personal goals, too.
The No. 19 Spartans assisted on 25 of their first 26 baskets and Matt Costello and Travis Trice each scored 15 points to rout Arkansas-Pine Bluff 85-52 on Saturday.
“I was unbelievably excited about the way we played in the first half,” Izzo said of the 54-20 lead. “In the second half, we did what teams do.”
Branden Dawson had 12 points and seven rebounds for Michigan State (6-3). Bryn Forbes added 12-points, making 4 of 7 3-point shots.
“We defended pretty well and shot really well,” Forbes said. “But we didn’t play so well in the second half. I wish we would’ve won by a little more.”
The Spartans never trailed and snapped a two-game losing streak after falling to Kansas and Notre Dame.
Marcel Mosely scored 19 points and Ghiavonnie Robinson had 13 for the Golden Lions (1-7), who dropped their fifth in a row.
“We had to stop either the two or the three, we needed to stop one of them,” Mosley said of their defensive problems. “We couldn’t stop either. It was kind of hard.”
Michigan State made 30 of 50 shots from the field and 10 of 18 from 3-point range. The Spartans finished with 27 assists, setting up 90 percent of their baskets.
“To have 27 out of 30 is mind-boggling,” Izzo said. “But we were so good passing for assists in the first half, we actually passed the ball to them for assists in the second half.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff had 15 steals and helped force Michigan State into 18 turnovers. But the Spartans held the Golden Lions to 31-percent shooting and had a 42-28 rebound advantage.
“We needed to come out and compete the whole game,” Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach George Ivory said. “We knew coach Izzo was going to have them up after the Notre Dame game. I thought they’d be very focused and determined.”
Michigan State smothered Arkansas-Pine Bluff throughout the first half and held the Golden Lions to 24-percent shooting, including 11 percent from long range. But the visitors kept competing and outscored the Spartans 32-31 in the second half, giving Izzo something to talk about in practice next week.
But his big men performed well, with Gavin Schilling and Costello combining for 22 points and 10 rebounds.
“Costello had one of his best games,” Izzo said. “Those two guys have been the bright spot on my team. Their combined contributions are incredible. I don’t know who’s ahead of the other.”
Izzo also praised Denzel Valentine, who set the tone with eight assists and six rebounds. Everyone else joined in as the Spartans outscored the Golden Lions 31-2 off the bench.
Marvin Clark Jr. added 10 points in 15 minutes for Michigan State. He was the only Spartan who didn’t miss a free throw, going 3 for 3. His team made just 15 of 27 from the line.
Santa Clara: Mosley, a 6-foot senior guard, is ranked third in the Southwest Athletic Conference in four statistical categories. He gave MSU trouble with his quickness and had more than half his team’s points (11 of 20) in the first half.
Michigan State: The game was the first of a seven-game homestand, the longest in Izzo’s 20 seasons as coach. The stretch ends with conference games against Maryland and Indiana.
TAKE A BREAK
After an 18-rebound game against the Fighting Irish, Dawson was in and out of the lineup, especially in the first half. “He’s almost too unselfish,” Izzo said. “I asked my assistants, ‘Why is he out?’ They said he took himself out twice and said the other guys deserved a chance.”
The trick for Arkansas-Pine Bluff is to learn some lessons from games like this. “It was a hostile crowd, and it seemed like it was packed,” Ivory said. “We’re not going to play this kind of competition very often. It was a good experience, and our guys can go back and find out that we need to work on.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff visits Air Force next Saturday.
Michigan State hosts Oakland next Sunday.
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