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.