After taking the then-No. 5 MSU men’s basketball team into Bowling Green and losing more than 20 years ago, head coach Jud Heathcote vowed he would not return to Anderson Arena, now called the Stroh Center. As an assistant coach on that team that was upset two decades ago, Tom Izzo wanted to be sure history didn’t repeat itself.
Trailing by one nearing the midway point of the second half, the No. 20 Spartans (10-2) held Bowling Green (5-5) without a field goal for more than nine minutes to grind out a 64-53 victory on Tuesday in the team’s return to Bowling Green, Ohio.
It was a balanced scoring attack for the Spartans, with freshman guards Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine leading the way with 12 points. Sophomore guard Branden Dawson added 10 points and seven rebounds while junior guard Keith Appling and senior center Derrick Nix chipped in nine points apiece in the winning effort.
The first half went back and forth as the Spartans again struggled with turnovers and allowed the Falcons to hang around early. The team finished the day with 14 total giveaways and remain dead last in the conference in the category.
Clinging to a two-point lead just before the half, sophomore guard Brandan Kearney hit a last-second jumper at the buzzer to send the Spartans into halftime leading, 29-25.
The Falcons chipped away at the lead with several big buckets in the second half by guard Jordan Crawford and forward A’uston Calhoun. Guard Chauncey Orr led the Falcons in scoring on the evening with 16 points while Crawford and Calhoun added 10 points and nine points, respectively.
Following a 3-pointer by Orr at the 10:27 mark, the Spartans turned up the defensive prowess and kept Bowling Green without an offensive field goal for nearly 10 minutes in the second half. In the same stretch, the Spartans went on a 14-2 run into the final media timeout, highlighted by a Dawson dunk coming off a steal.
The win pushes the Spartans’ streak to five games as they return home this weekend for a 2 p.m. matchup on Saturday against Texas. It will be the final non-conference game of the season for the Spartans, as they open up Big Ten play on Dec. 31 against Minnesota.