The preseason finale for men’s basketball started the same way many fans expect the regular season to play out: with a slam dunk.
Five seconds after the tip, senior guard Keith Appling lobbed an alley-oop to high-flying junior forward Branden Dawson to send the crowd into an early frenzy. The Spartans never gave up their early lead, as they topped the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks, 83-45.
Sophomore guard Gary Harris led the game with 21 points, with 14 of them coming in the first half after draining four three-pointers. Appling dished out a game-high 11 assists while sophomore forward Matt Costello tied the game-high with six rebounds.
The Spartans started the game living behind the arc, shooting six three-pointers in the opening five minutes. MSU continued the trend, shooting 8-for-19 from three-point land in the first half.
However, the first half wasn’t just a shooting clinic, as MSU already started adding to their season’s highlight reel. Dawson led the series of outstanding plays after slamming home an Appling miss with less than 13 minutes remaining in the half. Dawson then was on the giving end of an alley-oop to senior forward Adreian Payne, but a freshman stole the show later in the half.
After a missed three-point attempt by Trice, forward Gavin Schilling soared above the rim for a one-handed tip slam with less than two minutes to go in the half.
The Spartans also took care of the ball, only committing their first turnover with four minutes to go in the half. MSU ended the game with six turnovers.
After halftime the beat down continued, as the gap was as large as 40 points.
Payne opened up the second half by throwing down a one-handed dunk after thrashing through the lane to give the Spartans a 53-26 lead.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the second half came with less than 12 minutes left in the game, when junior forward Russell Byrd knocked down his third consecutive three of the game after missing his first attempt. The player better known as “Byrdman” smiled after draining the shot, begging for the ball on the next possession.
The noise of the crowd from the first half was born again when Dawson went coast-to-coast after a steal for a thunderous dunk. He finished with 10 points on four-for-seven shooting.
The Spartans’ next game is their season-opener against McNeese State 7 p.m. on Friday at Breslin Center.