For being a game sandwiched between dates with two top-10 teams, MSU didnt drop its intensity level against visiting Illinois-Chicago.
The No. 3 Spartans drilled the Flames 97-53 Saturday at Breslin Student Events Center thanks to stellar rebounding and a solid defensive effort that forced 22 turnovers.
With No. 10 Florida coming to town Wednesday and three days removed from defeating No. 6 North Carolina, MSU head coach Tom Izzo said the team did well guarding against a letdown.
I thought we did a decent job to stay somewhat focused, he said. Thats a step in the right direction for a team thats looking for some leadership.
It was a big win for us, sophomore guard Jason Richardson added. It let everybody know that we can play a top-ranked team and then go out and play guys that arent ranked that high. We played them good.
Freshman center Zach Randolph led all scorers with 19 points and 10 rebounds - the first double-double of his career. Senior forward Andre Hutson also recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Richardson had 17 points.
Although MSU jumped to a 42-24 lead at halftime, Izzo said the team had a stronger effort in the second half.
We did a better job, he said. (Hutson) did a better job on the boards and we got the ball inside a little more. When you have 26 assists, that is always a good sign as well as having 20 offensive rebounds.
Izzo said Illinois-Chicago was hindered a bit by the absence of its 6-foot-11 center Thor Solverson, who was lost for the season Wednesday after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
With him they are a different team, he said. He has been playing well lately and to not have him back in the game hurt them.
The Spartans had a 54-27 rebounding edge on the Flames, including 20 offensive boards.
Senior guard Charlie Bell, who had nine points, said the Flames werent a strong rebounding team.
We knew from watching film that they werent good at boxing out, he said. We knew if we sent four to the boards every time that we were going to have a good chance of getting (the rebound).
Senior guard David Thomas and Richardson had nine of MSUs 20 offensive rebounds.
Our rebounding and our defense is what wins games, Thomas said. Its been proven over the last couple of years. Tonight, we had 54 rebounds which is just amazing for our team.
If you get the offensive rebound, that brings the crowd into it, it gets your energy going and thats what we did.
Thomas, who only shot 2-of-7 for four points, said his rebounding helps his teammates play better.
I think thats one of the reasons coach puts me in, he said. It just seems like Im everywhere providing that energy and it gets other guys in. It may not get me going, but I get other guys going and thats whats important.
MSU improved to 5-0, extending its winning streak to 16 games and its home winning streak to 33. Illinois-Chicago falls to 2-3.
The Spartans now look ahead to Wednesday when they host the team they defeated to win the national championship in April - the 3-0 Florida Gators at 7 p.m. at Breslin.