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Spartans grab win in season opener, 80-70

November 13, 2001
Junior forward Aloysius Anagonye (25) drives for the basket Monday during the game against Detroit Mercy at Breslin Center. MSU defeated the Titan 83-70

Only three teams in the country were undefeated against Tom Izzo and the MSU men’s basketball team before Monday night - Duke, Arizona and Detroit-Mercy.

Now, only two are.

The Spartans (1-0) beat the Titans - a team made up of 13 Michigan natives, including eight Detroiters - 80-70 in the first round of the Preseason NIT at Breslin Center.

The game opened both teams’ regular season and kept MSU’s home-winning streak intact at 45 games.

But the Spartans, who haven’t beat the home-grown Titans in its last three tries, had a tough time reversing that streak Monday.

“I was pleased with the win; I wasn’t always pleased with how we got it,” Izzo said. “I really felt like our kids competed; they played hard.

“We got a lot of basketball out of a lot of guys against a very, very good team.”

Detroit guard and Southfield native Greg Grays, who finished with a game-high 24 points, scored two baskets in a row to cut MSU’s lead to eight with 47.5 to play.

But sophomore forward Adam Wolfe, who was one of three Spartans to lead with 14 points, added a free throw and blocked a shot the next time down the court to secure the win.

Sophomore guard Marcus Taylor and junior forward Al Anagonye also had 14 points each.

Midway through the second half, MSU watched its 13-point lead dwindle to a four-point lead, thanks mainly to Grays.

“Grays is a good player who is going to be hard for a lot people to stop,” Izzo said.

Grays scored on three straight baskets, including a trey and two transition layups, to make the score 54-48 with 12:31 left.

On MSU’s next trip down the court, Detroit forward Mike Harmon blocked sophomore point guard Marcus Taylor’s jump shot, and the ball found its way to Grays’ hands with a clear path to the hoop.

After an MSU timeout, Taylor found freshman guard Chris Hill on top of the key for a three-pointer. And Hill hit another three-pointer the next time down the floor to give MSU a 60-51 lead with 10:16 left.

Grays cut MSU’s lead to six with another three-pointer, but two pairs of free throws by junior forward Adam Ballinger and Anagonye gave the Spartans a 10-point lead with 8:37 left.

With the game close in hand, freshman guard Kelvin Torbert showed some spark for the first time, scoring MSU’s next six points to put his team up 70-56 with 7:03 left.

“Torbert is probably the best all-around player, but I don‘t think he’s shown it yet,” Izzo said. “I think he can be a very good player.”

MSU jumped ahead early in the game, taking a 20-8 lead by 11:10, but the Detroit transition game helped the Titans creep back into the game.

The Spartans led by only two with 5:44 left in the first half.

That was as close as the Titans would get as the Spartans pulled ahead, going on a 14-4 run to close out the half, giving them a 42-30 halftime lead.

“We looked like freshmen at times, yet we looked very talented and good at times,” Izzo said.

But Detroit head coach Perry Watson, a former assistant coach at Michigan, said youth is not always a problem.

“You have to remember I coached (U-M’s) Fab Five, and talent is big at this level,” Watson said. “It doesn’t matter what class you’re in, and the Fab Five proved when you’re talented and young it’s no problem.”

MSU advances to the second round and will play Oklahoma at 9 p.m. Wednesday at Breslin Center. If the Spartans win that game, they will play Nov. 21 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Justin A. Rice can be reached at ricejust@msu.edu.

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