No. 19 Michigan St. 90, Lehigh 81

Tom Izzo set three goals for Michigan State against Lehigh, saw
his team meet all three and still had a scare on Thursday
night.

It took a second-half surge, improved free three throw shooting
and dominant rebounding for the 19th-ranked Spartans (11-2) to
claim their 11th straight win, 90-81 over the Mountain Hawks.

”I told our team the other day that they were pretty good,”
Izzo said of the Lehigh (9-4), which had won nine of its previous
10. ”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 7
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 blocks.

”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.”

Holden Greiner had 24 points for Lehigh. C.J. McCollum added 19
points and Mackey McKnight and Gabe Knutson had 14 each.

”I’m proud of the fight we put forward,” Mountain Hawks coach
Brett 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.”

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.

”We knew we weren’t an awful free throw shooting team,” Green
said. ”We had nights where the focus level probably wasn’t there.
But we definitely focused hard these last couple days in
practice.”

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.