MSU's 'hot' start, Xavier Tillman overwhelm Charleston Southern
East Lansing — Michigan State got a head start in its preparation for the Maui Invitational on Monday night, hosting Charleston Southern in a campus game for the event that begins next week in Hawaii.
The Spartans didn’t take long to heat up, opening an early lead then dominating late in the first and well into the second on the way to a 94-46 victory at the Breslin Center.
Twelve players scored for No. 3 Michigan State (3-1), which now takes some time off before heading West at the end of the week in preparation for next Monday’s tournament opener against Virginia Tech.
Four Spartans scored in double figures, led by junior Xavier Tillman, who poured in a career-high 21 while grabbing 10 rebounds. Sophomore Gabe Brown, in his first career start, scored 12 while Cassius Winston and Rocket Watts had 11 each. Watts also has seven rebounds and six assists for the Spartans.
“We started off really well, we started off hot,” Tillman said. “We played good defense and were capitalizing on offense. Then we fell into a little bit of a slump in the first half and guys were just getting tired and winded. Coach did a great job of subbing everyone in. … Then in the second half, we kind of ran away with it."
Dontrell Shuler scored 15 to lead Charleston Southern (1-4) in the first matchup between the schools.
The Spartans took control early by jumping to a 14-4 lead before Charleston Southern scored the next three. From there, it was all Michigan State as the Spartans went on a 17-2 run over the next seven minutes to effectively put the game away in the first half.
Nine different players scored for Michigan State in the first half with Winston scoring nine and Tillman getting eight points and eight rebounds.
Michigan State was just as effective on the defensive end, limiting Charleston Southern to 20.6 percent shooting (7-for-34), including just 2-for-10 on 3-pointers.
The onslaught continued in the second half as Michigan State pushed its lead to 50 at one point while limiting Charleston Southern to just 27.9 percent shooting (19-for-68). The Spartans, meanwhile, shot 56.3 percent, including 66.7 in the second half.
“We're trying to get better every day,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “This has been a week where we didn't get better in practice, and we understood it. This is a week when we put a lot on the line at that game at Seton Hall. Nothing against this team or what we did today, we just didn't do all the things today that you need to win big games.
“But you rally around each other. It’s not a lot of yelling and screaming. It's just, ‘Do you see this, guys? Do you see that, guys? Can you see why practice is so important?’ Like I said, it's been a big learning curve, but a good learning curve.”
Brown started in place of Aaron Henry, who rolled both of his ankles during one play in the first half of the victory over Seton Hall on Thursday.
Henry was in uniform but was replaced in the starting lineup by Brown. Henry did not play.
“He sprained his ankle,” Izzo said. “He was sort of, half limping around so I just said, ‘I'll keep you out of this game and then on Wednesday saddle up.’ So that's what we did.”