No. 15 Michigan State played out of character Saturday night, shooting 50% from three, well above its 32.2% average, and witnessing sophomore forward Aaron Henry’s skill, as the Spartans rolled to a 101-48 victory over Eastern Michigan.
The Spartans dominated the student-less Breslin from the opening tip. MSU held Eastern Michigan to a 0-14 start from the field, despite being out-rebounded 22-19 and ceding 11 offensive boards to EMU in the first half.
"Other than a little bit of a rough start rebounding the ball early, I just thought we did a lot of good things," Head Coach Tom Izzo said postgame. "They've been d--- good defensively and we get that Big Ten prep because we have not been as good against the zones. His zone is really good."
Izzo went on to mention that he thought that was the best his team has performed against the zone in the past 10 years.
Senior guard Cassius Winston engaged the relatively silent Breslin crowd just two minutes into the game with a feed to sophomore forward Gabe Brown for the alley-oop slam to begin a 12-0 run for the Spartans.
Henry stole the show in the opening period, making all four of his attempts from the field, including 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, en route to 10 points on four rebounds and two assists.
The Spartans’ swingman attacked the Eagles’ zone, executing well-timed jump stops, providing crucial extra passes to assist easy baskets and finishing one assist shy of a double-double on 12 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.
"He missed a couple of shots early, then he made some shots, but he got some rebounds and he figured out a little spot in the middle of that zone," Izzo said of Henry. "When we popped Xavier (Tillman), he kind of did a better job than me and my staff did. He said he saw an opening in there and ... a couple of times he went into the middle, he really created some good things."
MSU continued to rain in threes throughout the first half, shooting 46% from long range, including two makes from sophomore guard Foster Loyer.
This would continue into the latter 20 minutes, as sophomore forward Gabe Brown, junior forward Xavier Tillman, senior forward Kyle Ahrens, redshirt sophomore guards Jack Hoiberg and Brock Washington and redshirt senior Conner George each sunk threes of their own.
Another sophomore forward garnered attention in the second half, as Marcus Bingham Jr. soared for alley-oops and put-back dunks, totaling 10 points and six rebounds.
The play that epitomized the night for MSU came with 10:47 left, and saw Bingham attempt a kick-out to Winston. Although Eastern Michigan partially blocked the pass, Bingham’s feed trickled out to Winston anyway, who made the first of two consecutive threes to complete a 10-0 run to give MSU an 80-32 lead.
Freshman forward Julius Marble showed mid-range touch amid a nine-point performance in as many minutes, going a perfect 3-of-3 from the field.
"It felt pretty good, starting to get a rhythm as a team and we started playing really well," Marble said. "I'm just happy that we got on a roll today and showed it."
Michigan State will stay home for Christmas break, and hosts its second-straight, in-state rival Western Michigan at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 29.
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