EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Michigan State showed it can beat teams by running or slowing it down.
Paul Davis scored 18 points and the 23rd-ranked Spartans had a big run in each half in a 76-64 victory over UCLA on Tuesday night.
The Spartans (7-2) won their fourth straight game thanks to a 14-1 run in the first half keyed by fast-break baskets, and 10 straight points after halftime on four different set plays.
“In the first half, we got our running game going,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “In the second, it was strictly execution of the offense.”
Freshman Josh Shipp scored a career-high 18 points for the Bruins (6-2), who were off to their best start since the 1997-98 season. Arron Afflalo added 16 points for UCLA and Dijon Thompson had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
UCLA started four freshmen for the first time in six years. With Thompson, a senior, also in the lineup, the Bruins were very competitive early. There were 10 lead changes and six ties over the first 12 minutes before Michigan State pulled away.
“It was a good experience because this is probably one of the toughest places we’ll play this year,” said Afflalo, one of the freshmen in the starting lineup. “But if we don’t learn from it, it was a waste of time.”
Michigan State’s Chris Hill scored 15 points, three Spartans had nine and freshman Drew Neitzel tied a season-high with eight points.
When the Spartans went on their first-half run sparked by Neitzel’s passing and shooting, former Michigan State and Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson rose to his feet and cheered from a suite. Johnson, who was born and raised in Lansing, was back in the area to spend the holidays with his parents.
“This is his university so any time you can make him stand up and applaud you, it feels good,” Neitzel said.
Johnson, who regularly visits each winter and summer, spoke to the team before and after the game.
The Spartans’ first spurt gave them a 37-26 lead late in the first half.
“That was the key juncture of the game,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
After the Spartans led by 10 points at halftime, Hill made consecutive 3-pointers and Davis followed with two baskets on low-post moves to put Michigan State ahead 52-32.
“In the second half, we got it inside and outside, then back inside,” Davis said. “We have to do that every time so that we can use all of our weapons.”
Davis scored 13 points in the second half and finished with seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
“We didn’t have an answer for Davis,” Howland said. “When we covered down, he did a good job of kicking the ball out.”
The Bruins cut their deficit to 11 midway through the second half, but couldn’t get closer.
Michigan State held UCLA to 34.4 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers.
“There were a lot of times that we played very, very good basketball against a good team,” Izzo said.