No. 2 Spartans shoot their way past Cleveland State

EAST LANSING, Mich.—Ranked 295th out of 351 Division I teams in the KenPom rankings, Cleveland State wasn’t expected to give much of a scare to No. 2 Michigan State Friday night at the Breslin Center.

And just minutes into the contest, it became apparent there would be no holiday hangover whatsoever for the Spartans.

The Spartans scored just 11 seconds into the game on a Cassius Winston layup and never looked back, clobbering the Horizon League’s Vikings 111-61. In winning their 12th game in a row, the Spartans shot 65 percent from the field and 58 percent from long range, hitting a season-high 15 threes on 26 attempts.

The Spartans’ 111 points were the most the Spartans have scored since dropping 118 against Alcorn State in 2008. It was also the third game in a row that the Spartans topped 100 points after scoring 107 against Houston Baptist and 102 against Long Beach State last week.

“If we didn’t go zone, they might have scored 200 points tonight,” Cleveland State coach Dennis Felton said.

Led by Josh Langford (23 points) and Nick Ward (22 points, 14 rebounds), it was the first time six Spartans scored double-digit points in a game since the 2014 Big Ten tournament semifinal against Wisconsin. Joining Langford and Ward in double digits were Miles Bridges (18 points), Jaren Jackson (12 points), Cassius Winston (11 points) and Matt McQuaid (11 points).

“My teammates do an unbelievable job of finding me,” Langford said after tying his career high in points. “The way our team is set up, it’s hard for somebody to key in on one person. We have a great dynamic within our team where everybody’s a threat on the offensive end, so it makes it easier for you to score.”

The first half saw the Spartans (13-1 overall) score 63 points, shoot 74 percent from the field and only commit three turnovers on their way to a 63-25 lead at the break. The 63 points marked the most points scored in a half for MSU under Tom Izzo.

“The basket was big tonight,” Langford said after the Spartans tied the sixth-most points scored in program history. “Sometimes we have those nights, but I think the biggest thing we did was focus on our defense. A lot of times when you focus on the defense, it bleeds into the offense, and you saw that tonight.”

Izzo’s team tripled the Vikings on the boards, outrebounding them 48-16 while outdueling them scoring in the paint by the same margin.

“I’m pleased that we didn’t take the day off,” Izzo said. “That’s the sign of a team maturing a little bit, and I’m hoping that leads to more things here down the road.

Cleveland State (3-10 overall) kept the final margin somewhat respectable because of its three-point shooting. The Vikings, led by Bobby Word’s 26 points, made 11 threes on 37 attempts. Word hit seven of those as he led the game in scoring.

The Spartans have one day’s rest before a New Year’s Eve matinee against Savannah State, ranked 330th in the KenPom rankings as of Friday night. Izzo plans to use the short break as an opportunity to prepare for March Madness.

“We’re trying to use tomorrow like an NCAA weekend,” Izzo said, “where you play a game, you’re off a day, you play a game. So we’re going to go early in the morning, and we’re going to walk through, and we’re going to have meetings all day… so that we get more and more out of these games.”

Tipoff is set for noon on Sunday, as the Spartans will look to top 100 points in four straight games for the first time in program history.