Gary Harris made his home debut one to remember for No. 21 Michigan State.
He scored 19 points, including 14 in a lopsided first half, to lead the Spartans past Texas Southern 69-41 Sunday.
Branden Dawson had 13 points and six rebounds, while Adreian Payne added nine points and seven rebounds for the Spartans (2-1), who extended their string of wins in home openers to 36.
”It wasn’t a great performance,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. ”I’m still a stage of trying to figure out who’s going to be in the playing group. We had 10 guys play 12 minutes or more, which is almost impossible to do.”
Coach Tom Izzo’s team also got good work from reserves. Harris’ fellow freshmen Denzel Valentine and, in his first action after a lower-back injury, Matt Costello combined for 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.
Fred Sturdivant had 10 points and 12 rebounds for Mike Davis’ Tigers (1-3), who had three players returning home to Michigan. Raymond Penn had 10 points and Kyrie Sutton 11 rebounds.
”We were trying to do some things we can build on and get better as a basketball team,” Davis said. ”We knew it would be a definite challenge, especially after playing Friday and flying out Saturday. All we wanted to do was try to improve.
Michigan State had a 46-10 advantage in points in the paint, showing its determination to run, then pound the ball inside. The Spartans also controlled the game in most other departments: 18-0 in fast-break scoring, 46.7-21.1 percent shooting from the field.
The biggest negative for Michigan State was just 11 assists on 28 baskets. But the Spartans did a decent job of protecting the ball, committing 12 turnovers.
”We got a lot of points off layups,” Izzo said. ”We’re still not getting the ball inside and getting enough inside-out. Our 3-point shooting selection was average at best.”
Michigan State came out with much more intensity than it showed in a four-point loss to Connecticut in Germany nine days earlier, and picked up where it left off in a three-point win over Kansas five days ago in Atlanta.
After covering more than 9,500 miles in a typically challenging start to the season, Izzo’s team was happy to be home and showed that in the opening minutes.
”It feels good to finally be at home, but Coach Izzo is trying to test us,” Harris said. ”We just have to mentally ready to play and step on their toes before they step on ours.”
Co-captain Derrick Nix, the team’s only scholarship senior, was held out of the starting lineup, with Payne sliding over to center and Alex Gauna filling in. Nix finished the game with 11 rebounds.
After the Tigers scored first on an off-balance 3, Michigan State methodically pulled away and built a 21-point lead just before halftime. Dawson, Valentine and Payne had impressive dunks, while Texas Southern shot just 22.2 percent from the field and committed 11 turnovers.
The Spartans shot 55.2 percent in the first half, including 5 for 7 by Harris, who built upon hitting 7 of 12 against Kansas. They also had nine steals in the first 20 minutes, showing their early intensity.
It was Michigan State’s first game in the Spartan Showcase, a five-team round-robin event over an eight-day span. The Spartans will host Boise State on Tuesday, Oakland on Friday and Louisiana-Lafayette next Sunday before traveling to Miami for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.