Spartans head into Big Ten play with victory

EAST LANSING (AP) Kalin Lucas responded to a benching just the way his coach had hoped.

The reigning Big Ten Player of the
Year scored 16 points and his teammates were there to help in No. 11
Michigan State’s 87-68 victory over Texas-Arlington on Wednesday night
in its final nonconference tuneup.

“He’s a valuable, valuable player for
Michigan State and the Big Ten,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “I need
so much out of him that I hold him to a different standard.”

A 3-hour meeting between coach and player Tuesday night seemed to clear the air and left Lucas feeling much better about Izzo.

“He told me I had to lead better and
be a better team player,” Lucas said. “I did need to hear that. I
learned that he does care about me.”

Izzo had also spent a lot of time
with Durrell Summers and Draymond Green, and the results showed there,
too, as they combined for 39 points.

Summers had 20 points, 13 in the
first half, and Green added 19 points and seven assists in a balanced
attack for the Spartans (10-3).

“Durrell caught it and shot it, and
it looked like it was always going in,” Izzo said of a player whose
confidence wanes. “He’s a joy to watch when he’s like that.”

Summers attributed the change to positive workouts and some much-needed bonding after a loss at No. 2 Texas.

“We had a great meeting as a team
the other day, too,” said Summers, who attempted 13 shots and played
with passion. “I think that brought the team a little closer.”

The adding of Green and reserve
Isaiah Dahlman to help provide leadership seemed to take some of the
burden off Lucas, who has been asked to do everything, including sell
popcorn, in Izzo’s words.

“It’s a privilege, a blessing and an
honor to be a captain in this program,” said Green, a sophomore. “But
what happened the other day was more about a title. I was already
helping to lead anyway.”

Lucas was held out of practice
Tuesday to spend some time thinking about his leadership role. He did
that and played 29 minutes, as many as any Spartan.

“I was disappointed in the way that
was handled,” Izzo said of the media’s emphasis. “If you want to go on
a search and see how many teams throw guys out of practice, don’t bring
a pencil or a pen. Bring a computer.”

Marquez Haynes, the nation’s No 2
scorer, led the Mavericks (5-5) with 20 points, 5.2 under his average.
Brandon Long added 16 points for Texas-Arlington but was just 6 of 19
from the field.

Michigan State scored the first 12
points of the game, had a shutout for the first 5:30 and built an 18-2
lead after 6-plus minutes.

With three starters injured, the Mavericks answered and cut the 16-point lead to six at halftime with six 3s in 12 attempts.

Texas-Arlington trimmed the lead to
four points early in the second half, only to see the Spartans get a
run and build their cushion to 24.

“I’m proud of the way we played
tonight,” Texas-Arlington coach Scott Cross said. “While I am never
happy with a loss, and neither are our players, I thought we played
with intensity and did what we asked the team to do.”

Michigan State shot 50.8 percent from the field, had a 39-29 advantage on the boards and 21-11 in assists.

The Mavericks shot 43.6 percent from
the field and were just as accurate from long range, hitting 10 of 23
tries beyond the arc. But they committed 22 turnovers.

The Spartans begin their defense of the Big Ten title on Saturday at No. 25 Northwestern.

Updated December 30, 2009