Michigan State coach Tom Izzo isn’t known for giving out praise easily, but he was ecstatic about his team’s performance its last time out.
Izzo and the No. 10 Spartans try to complete a perfect three-game homestand on Saturday night when it meets Jacksonville.
Michigan State (5-1) extended its nonconference home winning streak to 30 games with an impressive 81-58 win over No. 24 North Carolina State on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Spartans committed a season-low 10 turnovers and limited the Wolfpack to 35 percent shooting.
It was a welcome effort for Michigan State, which played well in a 68-63 loss to No. 2 UCLA on Nov. 20 before a poor performance four days later at home in a 75-71 win over Oakland.
“This was our best game of the season tonight,” said Izzo about Wednesday’s game. “UCLA was the best team we have played so far; we were up 10 in that game, but we couldn’t close. Tonight we did a good job, and it was our best game of the season.”
Michigan State led by 22 points at halftime and by as many as 32 in the second half. Drew Neitzel scored 17 points and Goran Suton added 16 and 12 rebounds.
“I wanted to go hard and be the aggressor,” said Suton, who posted his second straight double-double. “We can be better than this. But we were pretty good in the first half.”
Izzo made a change to his lineup, giving junior Travis Walton his second start of the season at point guard over freshman Kalin Lucas. Walton was solid with a season-high seven assists and only one turnover.
Lucas also was effective off the bench with eight points, four assists and one turnover, and could return to the starting lineup.
“I may, but I may not,” said Izzo about starting Lucas. “I’m going to talk to Travis and Kalin, look at the film and see how I feel about things, and grade it out.”
Leading scorer Raymar Morgan has likely graded out as the Spartans’ most consistent player this season. Morgan is shooting better than 60 percent for the season and had 15 points and seven rebounds on Wednesday.
Jacksonville (3-2) has lost two straight after a 3-0 start. The Dolphins shot a season-low 37.5 percent and were held to their lowest point total of the season in a 65-60 loss to Georgia State on Wednesday.
“We struggled at times and didn’t do a good job of getting good shots,” Jacksonville coach Cliff Warren said. “It’s a tough loss, but you have to give credit to Georgia State. They did the things they had to do to win.”
Sophomore guard Ben Smith has managed back-to-back 13-point efforts on a combined 5-of-22 shooting in the losses. Smith, who is second in the Atlantic Sun Conference in foul shooting at nearly 94 percent, averaged 19.7 points and shot 54.5 percent from the field in Jacksonville’s first three games.
The Dolphins won the only previous meeting with the Spartans, 65-63 on Dec. 30, 1976.