Michigan State Spartans Improve Their Season Record to 11-2 with 90-81 Win over Lehigh

Steve Williford

The Michigan State University men’s basketball team defeated the feisty and well coached Lehigh Mountain Hawks 90-81 to close out the nonconference portion of the schedule. The game may have been closer than expected but the Spartans managed to use their depth, talent and athletes to pull away in the second half. It may have not been pretty but the getaway games usually are never a work of art. The Spartans got the job done and can now head home and enjoy the holiday before the Big Ten season kicks into gear.

The Spartans overcame a poor shooting tonight by using their size to gain a plus 19 advantage on the boards by an amazing 50-31.  MSU also shot 82.1 % from the foul line going 32-39.  After not making a three in the first half the Spartans managed to knock down four in the second half.

For much of the game it was hard for either team to establish a rhythm due to questionable officiating. For as much as some Michigan State fans have complained over the years about even calls, I think it’s time to step aside and allowed Lehigh some time to vent about the officiating. It was apparent the Spartans benefited from some questionable calls throughout the night.

After the game coach Tom Izzo was very complementary of Mountain Hawks “They were better than I thought. They played hard, they played physical. That is a team I expect to be playing in March”

When speaking about his own team Izzo was not as nice stating that “We didn’t t play very well, I thought the missed layup before halftime kind of told the story of the whole first half, we just couldn’t buy a bucket.”

Continuing on Izzo said, “We got a long way to go if we want to be a contender in the Big Ten.”

Lehigh University coach Brett Reed was proud of his team. “In order to win this game we of had to be near perfect. The difference of the game was rebounding and some of those run out opportunities. Our first half was strong, particularly on defense. Our defense got a little lax in the second half and that is when Michigan State capitalized.”

Coach Reed ended by saying “credit to our guys for continuing to fight and push through the very end.”

For those of you who are not aware Coach Reed is a Michigan native. When asked about what it was like to come back and play in his home state he stated “It was a unique feeling having a chance to come to my home state, a place where I have been involved with basketball for so many years, it was a unique challenge.”

Brandon Dawson had his third straight solid performance with 14 points and eight rebounds. Three solid games in a row is nice momentum heading into the Big Ten season for the young star out of Gary, Indiana.

Austin Thornton may not come to mind as everyone’s favorite player but he had a nice game with 11 points and seven rebounds and zero turnovers. His three pointer in the second half gave MSU some breathing room.

Draymond Green did not start after serving a self imposed benching for being six minutes late to practice.  Green was out of sync most of the night but finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds in what coach Izzo called, “Probably his worst game yet.”

Keith Appling scored a team high 19 points going 12-12 from the foul line.

Is fair to say to this point this young version of the Spartans has exceeded expectations. With the win the Spartans extended their winning streak to 11 games. The 11 game unbeaten run is the tied for the third longest during Coach Izzo’s tenure. The 2008-2009 team had an 11 game unbeaten streak during the Big Ten season. The two longer winning streaks were a 23 game run shared by the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 teams and a 15 game Big Ten winning streak accomplished by the 1998-1999 squad.

The Spartans return to action on December 28 to start the Big Ten season off versus a much improved Indiana team. As we all know Indiana is coached by Izzo’s former lead assistant Tom Crean.

Will this be the year the student can finally steal the pebble from the master’s hand? It should be a close battle and a great way to kick off another exciting season of Big Ten basketball. Tune into Spartan Nation to find out if the young Spartans are ready for the bloody and bruising Big Ten season.

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