AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Paul Davis cleared his mind and a strong performance followed.
Davis scored a season-high 20 points and keyed a first-half surge to lead No. 20 Michigan State to a 78-53 win over Stanford on Saturday.
The 6-foot-11 junior said his thoughts are no longer cluttered with the NBA or the expectations on him.
“My whole head is clear,” Davis said. “I feel like I’m on cloud nine because of how I played and we played. I hadn’t played the way I wanted to all season.”
Michigan State (5-2) took control with an 18-4 run midway through the first half and was able to coast the rest of the way. Davis started the spurt with a low-post move for a basket, then added a jumper and three-point play.
“He demanded the ball and we got him the ball,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Davis, talented enough to score 17 points at Duke, was taken out of the starting lineup in the Spartans’ previous game after being held to seven against George Washington.
Davis acknowledged the battles he wages in his mind have been more daunting than any opponent.
“It’s been like that my whole career,” he said.
Davis made 7 of 12 shots and grabbed eight rebounds against the Cardinal (2-4)
“Paul Davis was a beast inside,” Stanford’s Chris Hernandez said. “It really opened things up when they could go to him.”
Michigan State’s Maurice Ager scored 12, Alan Anderson had 11 and Shannon Brown added 10.
Matt Haryasz led the Cardinal with 12 points. Stanford’s Dan Grunfeld, who was averaging 19.4, was held to 6 points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Stanford has three starters back from last season’s team, which was 30-2 and had a No. 1 ranking, but is without Pac-10 player of the year Josh Childress, now in Atlanta, and Mike Montgomery, who left to coach Golden State.
“We’re struggling to adjust to our new roles,” said Cardinal coach Trent Johnson, who led Nevada past Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. “Our margin of error is very small.”
The Cardinal played for the first time since Nov. 28 and will not play their home opener until Dec. 18 because Maples Pavilion is being renovated.
Stanford led 13-6 after converting five Michigan State turnovers into 11 points before the game slipped away from the road-weary team.
The Spartans made four straight shots—following a 2-of-13 start—to go ahead for good. The decisive run gave Michigan State a 24-17 edge, and it led by nine at halftime.
“Their depth broke us down,” Johnson said.
Davis scored the first basket of the second half to give the Spartans their first double-figures, which they built to as much as 27 with balanced scoring and aggressive defense.
“We’re obviously not that good yet,” Hernandez said. “We’re not playing our best and when you do that against Michigan State, you get beat bad.”
Michigan State made 50 percent of its shots and held the Cardinal to 32.7 percent in the Spartan Clash at The Palace.
The Spartans fell nine spots in The Associated Press poll last week after losing at Duke and to George Washington.