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Spartans show improvement in rout of Loyola of Chicago

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — When Michigan State took the floor against Loyola-Chicago on Friday night at the Breslin Center, some wondered whether there would be any lingering affect from the loss to No. 4 Duke earlier in the week.

But that would assume the Spartans were feeling down heading into Friday's game.

That, they said, was far from reality.

"We felt like there were so many doubts going into the season," junior center Matt Costello said. "But after the Duke game we were like 'we can play with anybody.' Because honestly, we could have won that game. If we didn't turn the ball over and foul a couple of 3-point shooters and have little dumb errors … we played to about 70 percent of our capability against Duke and still played with them. We can play with anybody so we got confidence even out of that loss."

It didn't take long to prove that confidence existed against an outmanned Loyola-Chicago team as No. 19 Michigan State opened the game with 17-2 run and never looked back in an 87-52 victory.

Branden Dawson and freshman Marvin Clark each scored 15 points as the Spartans moved the ball on offense, shot better than 60 percent from the field and defended better than they did three days ago. Dawson and Clark led five players in double figures as Travis Trice and Matt Costello each scored 13 points and Denzel Valentine added 12 points. The 13 points were a career-high for Costello, who also grabbed 11 rebounds.

Trice and Valentine each handed out seven assists while Dawson pulled down seven rebounds. Freshman Lourawls Nairn also handed out seven assists while transfer Bryn Forbes was 3-for-5 from the floor and scored eight points.

"There were some incredible bright spots," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Seven assists from three different guys and then 27 assists on 36 baskets, and some of those baskets without assists were on tip-ins. And we rebounded well and ran better in the second half."

It was far too much for Loyola (2-1), which got 13 points form Milton Doyle but was cold early, shooting just 6-for-25 from the field in the first half.

"That was painful," Loyola coach Porter Moser said. "For you to watch and for us to coach. Credit to Michigan State after coming off the Duke game, a high-energy game. I would have like to have been a fly on the wall in practice the last couple days. They were clicking on all cylinders."

They certainly were, and after the Spartans opened the game with the 17-2 run before giving up five straight points to the Ramblers, they scored the next 12 to open a 29-7 lead and went to halftime with a 38-14 lead thanks to 60.7 percent shooting from the field.

Seven of the nine Michigan State players who saw action in the first half scored with Dawson, Clark, Schilling and Costello scoring six points apiece. Costello's were the first six of the game thanks to a couple of nice passes from Valentine and Trice.

Little changed in the second half as Loyola was held to one basket in the first four minutes and Michigan State pulled away thanks to more impressive passing from Trice and Valentine and a string of three 3-pointers from Valentine and Clark in a three-minute stretch.

Clark, whose 15 points were a career high, was going so hard after Izzo challenged him to show more emotion that he went a bit too far late in the game, jawing in the face of Loyola's Christian Thomas after a layup and foul. He was whistled for a technical as Dawson grabbed him and pulled him away.

"I just let my emotions go too far," Clark said. "That was just a freshman mistake and it will never happen again."

While Izzo eventually laughed about one of the team's quieter players getting hit with the technical, it did give him a glimpse of something he truly loves — players taking ownership.

"I was really impressed with Branden," Izzo said of his senior. "He jumped on (Clark) when it happened and he jumped on him in the huddle. That's a sign of players coaching the team and that will help us."

And Friday's game, while not against the level of competition that Duke is, provided the Spartans with further proof they are headed in the right direction as they go through the next five games with four on the road.

"Those are the losses that hurt because we felt like we should have been in the game," Trice said. "At the same time we know we weren't outmanned and that we should be out there. Tonight we definitely wanted to bounce back."