Spartans roll over Rutgers
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has never seen a stranger basketball season in the Big Ten Conference. Some nights your team is awfully good. The next, the opposite.
The Spartans are exhibit A. After a poor performance in a loss to Nebraska last weekend, Michigan State (14-7, 5-3) bounced back against Rutgers and rolled to a 71-51 win on Thursday night in a game that was postponed earlier in the week by the threat of a blizzard in New Jersey.
"Teams are winning by 30 and then losing by 20," Izzo said. "It’s frustrating I bet for fans, media and coaches. As far as we’re concerned, I thought there were some bright spots and we got back to our roots. We defended well, we rebounded well and we got on the fast break well."
Branden Dawson led the way for the Spartans with 17 points and 11 rebounds, Bryn Forbers added 18, and both had points in the 20-2 run to start the second half that blew the game open.
"In the first half we’ve been talking about us coming out with energy at the beginning of the game," Dawson said. "That’s what we’ve been struggling with. In the second half we just came out with a lot more energy."
The Spartans shot 51 percent from the field, limited Rutgers to 29 percent shooting and led almost every second of the game. Travis Trice added 10 points and five assists before leaving late in the game, seemingly favoring his left arm.
"It’s a rib it keeps popping out," Trice said. "That’s all it is. It’s just sore. I just hit it again."
Kadeem Jack had 17 points to lead Rutgers (10-11, 2-7) which has lost five in a row since beating Wisconsin earlier this month.
Michigan State, which had lost two of its last three games, blew this one open at the start of the second half. Dawson started a run of 18 straight points with a three-point play and Forbes added a 3-point shot after Matt Costello made a layup, giving Michigan State a 52-36 lead. The margin grew to 62-36 before Rutgers made another basket.
"We needed something to put our hat on to move forward after an up-and-down last month. This is a good step," Costello said.
One of the keys to the Spartans’ win was their ability to limit Rutgers leading scorer Myles Mack (14.4) to seven points. He had a hard time getting shots, taking just 10 in the contest.
"We just didn’t look good the whole game," Mack said after Rutgers suffered its second straight blowout loss. "We just need to get back to the drawing board."
Dawson, who now has five double-doubles in Big Ten play, dominated early in the paint, scoring eight points and helping Michigan State take a 16-8 lead. Rutgers never got closer than four points the rest of the half.
Michigan State hit 8 of 20 form 3-point range, including four by Forbes.
"They are really good," Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. "They are really good and they were really good in the second half. Their defense just got into us. They are just really a better team all the way down the line."
Michigan State: Branden Dawson got called for a flagrant 1 foul in the first half for pushing Rutgers forward Junior Etou away from the play. No foul was called immediately and replays seemed to indicate Etou took a dive. However, Dawson got the flagrant after the officials reviewed the videotape.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights finished 16 of 55 from the floor and 4 of 14 from long range.
Michigan State: hosts Michigan on Sunday.
Rutgers: visits Indiana on Saturday.
Michigan State had 17 turnovers, its second most this season.