EAST LANSING -- The Runnin' Michigan State Spartans put on a show in their season-opening 98-56 win against McNeese State on Friday, and it could be a preview of the how they'll approach top-ranked Kentucky next week.
With the Spartans debuting a healthy team and fast-paced attack, G
Dawson came off the bench, allowing Denzel Valentine time on the court to test out a slightly smaller lineup and score 12 points. Travis Trice led the team with a career-high eight assists while scoring 11 points.
McNeese State took a 13-12 lead, but the Spartans responded with a 10-0 run fueled by Trice's energy and never looked back as they repeatedly sprinted down the court for easy points.
Jamaya Burr and Ledrick Eackles led the Cowboys with 11 points apiece.
— Valentine drew the ire of coach Tom Izzo a lot last season, but began this year on the good side. Izzo low-fived Valentine and pointed at him another time in acknowledgment of passes up the court that got Harris points. Valentine got the start after Branden Dawson was benched at the start because he was late to a team meeting, and the sophomore took full advantage by helping the Spartans' fast-paced attack on offense. Also, his shot looked very much improved as he made two 3-pointers and mid-range shots as well.
— Trice caught fire right after McNeese State had grabbed the lead, flying to the basket for a rare dunk before draining a 3-pointer. That spark he provided was not there during an injury-plagued season last year. In this game, the outburst lifted the team, and he continued to connect from long range, finishing 3 for 6 from beyond the arc.
— Harris' rebounding total was significant not only because it was his career high, but also because it's a sign of what he can do when healthy. Last year, he wasn't able to be aggressive on the boards while cautious about his shoulders. It's one more dimension to his game that Izzo saw when he recruited Harris and is now seeing show up on the court.
— Dawson didn't check into the game until the 16:34 mark because he was late to a team meeting, and the pregame tardiness couldn't have thrilled Izzo. The junior did respond by making 5 of 9 field goal attempts, including a couple of dunks late in the game.
— The Spartans committed 15 turnovers, with Harris having four of those. They got sloppy at times with their passing, though a lot of that could be explained by the large lead.
— Russell Byrd's first shot of the season was a 3-point attempt that did not come close to drawing iron. He committed a turnover on the next possession. He later had another air ball on a 3-point attempt and ended up missing all three shots from beyond the arc.
a question just how much the Spartans would run, and they pushed on every
possession they could. The result? Forty fast break points in advance of what
could be track meet against Kentucky on Tuesday in Chicago.
How ready is this Michigan State team for top-ranked Kentucky?
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