Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talks about the way the college is game is being called. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing — While it might not have had the buzz of the season-opener earlier in the week against top-ranked Kansas, the home opener for Michigan State on Sunday night provided a chance for the Spartans to start to build some early momentum.
While it was far from perfect, it didn’t take long for No. 10 Michigan State to get rolling as an early 16-0 run sparked the offense on the way to an 106-82 victory over Florida Gulf Coast at the Breslin Center.
The Spartans (1-1) were coming off a five-point loss to No. 1 Kansas in the Champions Classic on Tuesday, and were looking for a more complete game against the Eagles from the Atlantic Sun Conference. Michigan State got it, shooting 53.2 percent and had four players score in double figures.
Nick Ward led the Spartans by matching a career high with 25 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and handing out four assists. Joshua Langford scored 18 and had 10 rebounds, Cassius Winston had 14 points and eight assists and Matt McQuaid scored 12.
Christian Carlyle and Troy Baxter Jr. each scored 20 for Florida Gulf Coast (1-2).
It was far from perfect, though, as most early season games tend to be. Michigan State finished with 16 turnovers and had its share of defensive lapses in the second half.
“We’re having trouble guarding anybody,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We give up 92 and 82 (points in each of the first two games) and we got some guys on this team that think we can outscore people and we can when the teams aren’t good enough. But as the teams get better we won’t outscore people, as evidenced the other night.”
A sluggish start from Michigan State disappeared quickly when the Spartans went on a 16-0 run to turn a 10-6 deficit into a 22-10 lead. The surge ballooned to 21-3, and gave Michigan State a 27-13 lead with 12:16 left in the first half.
Michigan State's Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford talk about the team's performance following Sunday's 106-82 win. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
The lead continued to grow throughout the half as the Spartans scored the last seven points of the half, including a 3-pointer from freshman Marcus Bingham Jr. in the final minute to give Michigan State a 59-35 lead at the break.
“I feel like defensively we could have played a lot better,” Ward said. “But we’re gonna have games like that and we’ve got to improve from it.”
Michigan State pushed the lead to 67-40 early in the second half on a putback from Kenny Goins before Florida Gulf Coast started chipping away. The Eagles put together a 9-0 run to trim the Michigan State lead to 69-53 later in the half and eventually got to within 80-64 with just less than nine minutes to play.
But the Spartans extended the lead back to 22 a few minutes later on a drive and layup from Langford, and the Eagles never mustered another run from there.
“The biggest thing with us is to make sure we stay consistent,” Langford said. “Consistency and urgency. I think if we mix those two together it’s a mixture for a masterpiece, especially with the team we have. If we learn that, the sky isn’t even the limit for this team.”
Michigan State will get its next chance to prove that at 7 p.m. Wednesday when it hosts Louisiana Monroe.
By then, Izzo hopes to see the turnovers go down and the defensive intensity to pick up.
“I’m not gonna be satisfied with anything this year,” Izzo said. “We’re going back to the way it’s supposed to be. Guys got to be accountable.”
Here's a few observations from MSU's victory:
1. In Michigan State’s opener against Kansas, Langford was just a bystander in the first half before coming to life in the second as the Spartans’ comeback bid fell just short.On Sunday night against Florida Gulf Coast, Langford was full of energy from the opening jump. He was just 1-for-5 shooting from 3-point range, but in his nearly 17 minutes of action in the first half, Langford had 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds and didn’t turn the ball over. It’s that sort of production Michigan State will need early in games as the schedule gets tougher in the coming weeks.
2. The victory over Florida Gulf Coast wasn’t the most important happening surrounding the basketball program this weekend. While the coaching staff can’t comment, it was an especially vital weekend for recruiting as 6-foot-10 Vernon Carey made his second official visit to East Lansing. He’s also made official visits to Duke, North Carolina, Miami and Kentucky. The native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has said he intends to announce his commitment by the end of November.
3. Things got a bit testy for an early season non-conference game early in the second half when Ward and Florida Gulf Coast big man Ricky Doyle came into contact with each other. It appeared as if Doyle caught Ward with an elbow, which Michigan State coach took exception to, pointing and yelling at Doyle. It earned Izzo a technical and after reviewing the play, officials did not assess a foul to Doyle. In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s the same Ricky Doyle who played at Michigan.
“Immaturity on my part,” Izzo said of the exchange.