Appling lead No. 19 Spartans over Lehigh 90-81

Brett Reed knew the challenge Lehigh faced against Michigan

State. So did his players – and they nearly did more than simply

putting a scare into the Spartans on Thursday night.

It took a second-half surge, improved free three throw shooting

and dominant rebounding for 19th-ranked Michigan State to claim its

11th win in a row, 90-81 over the Mountain Hawks.

”I’m proud of the fight we put forward,” Reed said. ”I

thought we played together. I thought we hustled. And we tried to

make the right plays. … In order to win this game, we would’ve

had to play near-perfect.”

Holden Greiner was 8 for 12 from the field and had 24 points for

the Mountain Hawks (9-4), winners on nine of their previous 10.

C.J. McCollum added 19 points, and Mackey McKnight and Gabe Knutson

had 14 each.

Lehigh shot 42.4 percent from the field to Michigan State’s

40.3, but the Spartans – last in the Big Ten in free throw

percentage – hit 82.1 percent at the line and had a 50-31 edge on

the boards.

”I told our team the other day that they were pretty good,”

Izzo said of the Mountain Hawks. ”They were a little better than I

thought.”

Keith Appling scored 19 points, including all 12 of his free

throws, and had seven rebounds for Michigan State. He was 3 for 13

from the field but made up for that in other ways.

So did Draymond Green, who added 16 points and 10 rebounds for

his seventh double-double this season. The three-year captain was

seven minutes late for a morning meeting and didn’t start the game.

But despite a 5-for-17 performance from the field, he made an

impact with a career-high six blocked shots.

”One thing we said is we want to improve every night,” Green

said. ”It may not have looked like we improved tonight, but this

is one of those games where it was probably our first ugly win. The

entire win was just ugly.”

Branden Dawson had 14 points and eight rebounds, while surprise

starter Austin Thornton added 11 points and seven boards.

”It’s kind of how I’ve played here,” Thornton said. ”My job

is to bring the energy. That’s just how I always have been. … I’m

just glad we got the win.”

The Mountain Hawks trailed 11-5 before an 11-0 run gave them a

five-point lead. Greiner, a Michigan native, scored nine of those

points, including a pair of 3s.

”It was always a dream of mine to play for Coach Izzo or play

against him,” Greiner said. ”I got to play against him, and I had

a great time. It was a dream come true. I just kind of made open

shots, and that’s what I wanted to do.”

The Spartans drew even a few minutes later, and the lead went

back and forth the rest of the half. Michigan State finished with

five straight free throws for a 35-33 edge, only to go three down

in a hurry.

With a foul to give, freshman Brandan Kearney fouled McCollum

well away from the basket with 4 seconds left. But a vigorously

disputed continuation call by official Tom O’Neill gave McCollum

the basket and three free throws, including two for a technical

foul on Izzo.

Lehigh outscored Michigan State 15-0 from beyond the arc in the

first 20 minutes, going 5 for 12 while the Spartans were 0 for 2.

That more than negated the hosts’ 26-14 rebound advantage.

Michigan State quickly tied the game in the second half, then

took a 45-41 lead on free throws by Thornton and Green, the first

two coming after a technical on Reed.

When Thornton hit the Spartans’ first 3 of the night with 13:10

left, the lead swelled and Travis Trice made it a seven-point game

from deep a minute later. After a steal, Trice fired a long pass to

Brandon Wood for a layup and a nine-point cushion.

A three-point play by Dawson made it a 13-point game and ended

any thought of an upset. But Michigan State was left with plenty to

work on before unbeaten Indiana visits Breslin Center next

Wednesday in its conference opener.

Lehigh also returns to action next Wednesday with a game at St.

Peter’s.