They ran in transition. They showed off improved jumpers and mechanics. They eventually settled into the suffocating defense MSU has become known for under head coach Tom Izzo in their first public performance of the highly-anticipated 2013-14 season.
The No. 2-ranked Spartan men’s basketball team did what was expected, routing visiting Grand Valley State 101-52 in the first of two exhibition matchups.
Guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris led the charge for MSU, totaling 17 and 15 points, respectively. Appling, a senior, displayed improved 3-point shooting, going 5-for-7 from downtown while the sophomore Harris proved he’s fully healthy and scored it from all over the court.
The Spartans collectively shot 58.3 percent from behind the arc and went 34-for-55 from the floor.
“You never know when you play these games,” Izzo said. “But we’ve played not-real-good teams and scored 60 points. I think you can see we’re gonna score more points. We are gonna run more. … I think there were some things that were very encouraging, but we’ll see.”
Appling benefitted from a healthy set of weapons and felt the Spartans hit their stride playing up-tempo.
Sophomore Matt Costello got the starting nod in the frontcourt, filling the void left by former center Derrick Nix’s graduation. Costello scored seven points and hauled in a pair of rebounds in 13 minutes.
Junior forward Branden Dawson hit some pull-up jumpers en route to finishing with six points and seven rebounds.
“That’s one of the main things that we want to try to do this year,” Appling said of the fast break success. “But I’ve got to give all the credit to the guys that took the ball out because the fast break starts with the outlet. Each and every time that we had an opportunity to run it started with a great outlet by Adriean or Matt.”
Redshirt freshman forward Kenny Kaminksi did not play because of an academic issue, Izzo said.
An Appling jumper gave MSU its first double-digit lead of the game, 22-11, at the 11:30 mark in the first half. Grand Valley State’s Ryan Sabin hit a 3-pointer to cut the Spartans’ lead to 10. MSU responded with a 20-7 run in the final 9:30 of the half to carry a 47-24 lead into the break.
The Spartans dug in defensively for the second half after allowing the Lakers too many drives to the cup and kicks to open shooters in the first 20 minutes.
Another big swing to begin the second half, this time 24-4 in favor of the Spartans, broke the game open for MSU. During the stretch, Harris scored six straight points and the Lakers were held scoreless for more than five minutes.
“This is my 10th year at (Grand Valley State) and I think that might be the best team since I’ve been here,” Lakers coach Ric Wesley said.
Izzo’s pair of freshmen, guard Alvin Ellis III and forward Gavin Schilling had solid debuts. Schilling played 14 minutes, scoring four points and grabbing five rebounds while Ellis scored six in 11 minutes of action.
The Spartans conclude their exhibition slate at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 versus Indiana University Pennsylvania.