After playing down to their competition in each of their last two games, the No. 1 Michigan State basketball team (5-0) responded in a big way Friday night, pummeling the Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2), 96-77.
Senior Adreian Payne had a big night for the Spartans, finishing with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks while sophomore guard Gary Harris, in the midst of a rough 6-19 shooting night (2-12 from three), finished with 19 points and 5 assists.
Keith Appling added 13 points and 7 assists and Branden Dawson chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan State.
On the Virginia Tech side, big nights were had by both senior forward Jarell Eddie (23 points) and sophomore guard Adam Smith (27 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists), but in the end, it wasn’t enough to stick with the No. 1 team in the country.
However, despite the eventual outcome of the game, Virginia Tech did manage to make this a game for much of the first half. With 4:18 to go in the first, the score was just 31-30 in Michigan State’s favor, and it appeared once again, that Michigan State was not playing like the best team in the country.
However, at that moment, Michigan State sophomore guard Denzel Valentine lobbed a pass up to Payne, who was then fouled in mid-air, before throwing down a two-handed alley-oop, and converting on the free throw that followed to put the Spartans up 34-30.
The play helped spark a 15-3 run that gave Michigan State a 46-33 lead at the half, from which they never looked back, at one point taking a 30 point lead in the second half.
In the end, for the second straight game, Michigan State jacked up all sorts of threes on the night (35). Luckily for the Spartans though, if your name wasn’t Gary Harris for a large part of the game, they were dropping, as Michigan State was able to fit 14 of their 3-point attempts through the cylinder.
Nevertheless, it was still a big win for Michigan State, one that can be a big confidence booster and one that can show what the MSU basketball team is truly capable of doing.
Up next for the Spartans, they’ll move on to play in the Coaches vs. Cancer Final Saturday night against Oklahoma (4-0), a team coming into the game after coming back from seven points down with under a minute to go to steal one from Seton Hall, 86-85.
Tip off for Michigan State vs. Oklahoma will be at approximately 9:30 PM ET and will be televised on truTV.