EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Michigan State coach Tom Izzo cared more about his team’s 17-minute lull than its 18-point victory.
Chris Hill scored 14 points and the Spartans shot 61 percent in the second to beat Delaware State 63-45 on Saturday.
A similar performance won’t get it done when UCLA visits Michigan State on Tuesday.
“It was like mass confusion for a while. If you’d have had a uniform, I’d have played you in the first half,” Izzo told a reporter. “It was part the game plan, part finals, part them and part I don’t know what it was.”
Michigan State (6-2) survived with an excellent second half, keyed by 13 assists and just four turnovers. But that wasn’t enough to leave anyone smiling.
“It was so frustrating,” said Hill, who had five points during a 12-0 run that helped erase a five-point deficit. “Nobody wants to play defense for 35 seconds on every possession. But that’s no excuse for not getting rebounds or for some of the turnovers we had.
“A game like this kind of eats at you. And if we do this again, we’ll get beat, no question.”
Kelvin Torbert added 12 points and Shannon Brown had 10 for the Spartans, who refused to blame a letdown after last Saturday’s 25-point win over Stanford on a week of exams.
“We weren’t pressuring the way we normally do, and they got a chance to hit some big shots at the end of the shot clock,” Brown said. “But we can’t make excuses for the way we came out. A final is just another test. And if we play this way Tuesday, we get beat.”
Jahsha Bluntt had 11 points for the Hornets (2-6), who still haven’t played a home game this season and have lost by 20 points at No. 1 Illinois and by six at Marquette.
“Illinois and Michigan State are two different teams, two great teams that match up very well,” Delaware State coach Greg Jackson said. “If I had to pick one, it would be a tossup.”
Trailing 22-17 with 2:27 left in the first half, the Spartans scored the last seven points of the period—including a 3-pointer and a layup off a steal by Hill—then took control with a 10-3 run immediately after the break.
Aside from that stretch, the Spartans couldn’t make the Hornets play at a quicker tempo and didn’t solve Delaware State’s trapping zone defense. It didn’t help that Michigan State was outhustled to several loose balls and rebounds and didn’t get a shot for star center Paul Davis for the first 15:59.
“We let their style of play affect the way we played,” Davis said after scoring six points, 14 fewer than against Stanford. “I didn’t create many passing lanes. And we can’t get where we want to get if I only take two shots. That won’t do it against Big Ten teams or NCAA tournament teams. I know if we play this way on Tuesday, it won’t be a merry Christmas.”
Michigan State shot .523 from the field for the game and took better control of the ball in the second half after registering six assists and committing nine turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
Delaware State shot .368 from the field, was outrebounded 28-22 by the much taller Spartans and was outscored 28-14 in the lane.