Michigan State's Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston and Josh Langford met the media Thursday following an 81-63 victory over Notre Dame at Breslin Center in East Lansing. Matt Charboneau, Detroit News
East Lansing — Michigan State and Notre Dame squared off in East Lansing for the first time in more than 40 years Thursday night, and the Spartans weren’t about to disappoint the home crowd.
In front of a packed house at Breslin Center, No. 3 Michigan State won its second straight game over a top-10 opponent, racing out to a big lead then withstanding a second-half surge to knock off No. 5 Notre Dame, 81-63.
Cassius Winston scored 17 points, had seven assists and grabbed five rebounds to lead the Spartans (6-1), who shot 42.9 percent (9-for-21) from 3-point range and outrebounded the Fighting Irish, 42-21. Joshua Langford added 17 points for Michigan State, while Miles Bridges scored 14 and Nick Ward added 12 points.
The win was Michigan State’s first over a top-five opponent since a beating No. 4 Kansas, 79-73, in the Champions Classic on Nov. 17, 2015. With 18-point victories over both No. 9 North Carolina and No. 5 Notre Dame, Tom Izzo has defeated back-to-back top-10 opponents in the regular season for the first time in his 23-year career.
“That was a very well-earned win on our part,” Izzo said. “We rebounded well, defended well, didn’t turn it over too much other than a five-minute stretch and I thought the ball was moving better.
“Against a quality team that is very solid, I just thought we played (well). Give us some credit and yet they didn’t play their sharpest. We’ve both got good teams. They will win a lot of games but that was a good win for us and our crowd really helped.”
Notre Dame (6-1), which entered the game coming off a championship last week in the Maui Invitational, struggled early but cut the Michigan State lead to single digits in the second half.
Four players scored in double figures for the Fighting Irish as Bonzie Colson scored 17 and grabbed six rebounds. Rex Pflueger added 15 points while TJ Gibbs had 11 and Matt Farrell scored 10.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo met the media Thursday night after an 81-63 win over Notre Dame at Breslin Center in East Lansing. Matt Charboneau, Detroit News
“My worst fear was for them to get off to a great start because when they do in this building it’s a heck of an uphill climb,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “They really got off to a great start and as much as you practice transition defense you can’t simulate what they do on the floor.
“I loved our fight in the second half but they are a really good team. Heck of a team. They are as good as anybody in the country. Hats off to them. They were really ready to play.”
Michigan State came out firing from the outset, taking a 14-5 lead on a 3-pointer from Bridges. Gibbs answered for the Fighting Irish but the Spartans followed with a 17-3 run that turned a close game into a 31-11 advantage.
The surge got started when Matt McQuaid put back a Langford miss and really got rolling when Langford nailed three straight pull-up jumpers. McQuaid then buried a triple after Gibbs hit Notre Dame’s only shot during the run. Winston then hit a jumper in the lane and Langford closed things with a pair of free throws.
Notre Dame found some offensive life, scoring the next four, but Michigan State eventually took its biggest lead at 46-24 after a 3-pointer from Winston with 49 seconds left in the half. Gibbs hit short jumper to close the scoring as the Spartans led, 46-26, at halftime.
“We played well from the jump and that’s huge for our team,” Winston said. “We’ve got so many players and if we get going early it’s hard for teams to keep up with us.”
Notre Dame kept up, and then some, in the second half, outscoring Michigan State 20-7 to cut the deficit to 53-46 with 13:08 to play on a jumper from Farrell. But Michigan State answered with a layup from Ward and another mid-range jumper from Langford to push the lead back to 57-46 with 11:29 left in the game.
After a triple from Pflueger brought Notre Dame within 57-49, the Spartans extended the lead to 63-51 on a 3-pointer from Jackson, a free throw from Bridges and a layup on transition from Ward. Michigan State, however, went on an 11-4 run to go ahead, 68-53 and eventually got the lead back to 20 points after a Bridges drive to the bucket put the Spartan ahead, 77-59, in the final two minutes.
“It definitely shows how good we can be and how good we are,” Langford said. “But like I’ve said before, we’re not satisfied at all because we know we have a lot of room for improvement and growth as a team. We still make a lot of mistakes we shouldn’t make, but the biggest thing for us is to stay within ourselves and keep doing our job and not get the big head.”
The Detroit News' Matt Charboneau breaks down Michigan State's 81-63 victory over Notre Dame on Thursday night at Breslin Center in East Lansing. Matt Charboneau, Detroit News