MSU shows center strength in easy win over Santa Clara
East Lansing — Entering the season, Tom Izzo was hoping to get roughly 15 points and 10 rebounds a game out of his center position.
That's the entire position, however many guys it takes.
On Monday, sophomore Gavin Schilling showed signs those expectations likely won't be unattainable this season, recording career-highs in points (14) and rebounds (11) in No. 20 Michigan State's 79-52 victory over Santa Clara at the Breslin Center.
"He's so strong and athletic," Izzo said. "He does a good job on the ball screens and it getting up on those rebounds. He has a nice jump hook and shoots it as good with his left as he does with his right. I think Schilling is making progress, and so is (Matt) Costello."
Costello didn't score the way Schilling did, netting only two points, but he grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots. Colby Wollenman, the third option at center, had four points and five rebounds.
But there's no doubt Schilling stood out.
"I feel like I played pretty good," said Schilling, whose previous high were eight points and five rebounds. "I felt confident coming into the game. I think I just needed to do my job and I was successful at doing that."
Schilling wasn't the only one who enjoyed a solid night for the Spartans (3-1).
Travis Trice scored 19 and handed out eight assists while Marvin Clark scored 15, Denzel Valentine added 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Bryn Forbes scored 10.
Jared Brownridge scored 12 to lead Santa Clara (2-2).
"I thought we played a great first half," said Izzo, "and then not a very good second half."
Santa Clara scored 38 points in the second half and was only outscored by one point.
"The negative for me is it's hard to figure out where my team is," Izzo said. "Because of who we're playing and what players we're playing. There were probably more positives than negatives, I just hate when the game ended the way it ended."
Michigan State won't be back at Breslin Center for nearly two weeks, so on Monday night, the Spartans took advantage of the familiar surroundings, controlling the game from the outset, holding Santa Clara to less than 30 percent shooting and winning the rebounding battle 52-34.
The matchup was a non-bracketed game of the Orlando Classic, the tournament both teams will be taking part in beginning Thursday at the HP Field House. Michigan State opens play at 6 p.m. Thursday against Rider while Santa Clara faces Tennessee at noon.
Assuming a victory comes against Rider, Michigan State would face the Georgia Tech-Marquette winner on Friday. Another win there could set up a potential championship matchup with No. 11 Kansas.
The Spartans will be in the midst of four straight games away from home – three in the Orlando Classic followed by a trip to Notre Dame on Dec. 3 as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. They won't be back home until they host Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 6.
Michigan State got off to another quick start on Monday, beginning the game with a 17-2 for the second straight time, matching the output of the victory over Loyola-Chicago on Friday.
The early run on this night was sparked by Clark, who was getting his first career start. He hit a 3-pointer from the corner to open the game and after a 3-pointer from Valentine, Clark hammered home a lob pass from Trice. Clark added another dunk in transition later in the half to finish with seven points and three blocks.
Schilling scored eight for the Spartans in the first half and grabbed seven rebounds in his most productive stretch of the young season. Valentine added six rebounds and four assists in the first half while Trice had five assists.
Santa Clara struggled from the outset, shooting just 16.7 percent (5-for-30) in the first half, including 2-for-13 from 3-point range. The Broncos finished the game 18-for-62 and 5-for-22 from 3-point range, good for just 22.7 percent.
Dawson hit with flu
Senior forward Branden Dawson did not start because of the flu. It was the first time this season Dawson has not been in the starting lineup, a place he has been familiar with in his career. Entering Monday's game, the 6-foot-6 forward had started 92 of 98 career games, averaging 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Earlier Monday, Dawson was named to the watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, given annually to the top player in the nation.
Izzo said he hopes to have Dawson back close to 100 percent by the time the Spartans play again on Thursday.
Sophomore Alvin Ellis missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle. Izzo called the guard "doubtful" to play this week in Orlando but Ellis did get the walking boot removed from his right ankle and has gone through limited shooting drills.
Michigan State was just 9-for-17 from the free-throw line, a game after going 6-for-13 against Loyola-Chicago.
"Anyone who wants to join us for breakfast tomorrow, we'll be shooting free throws," Izzo said. "We'll be here whatever time we need to."
… Izzo said freshman Kenny Goins (Warren Mott) has been playing well in practice but will likely redshirt. He said he was meeting with the 6-foot-6 walk-on Tuesday to make the final decision.
... The national-champion women's cross-country team was honored during an on-court ceremony.