No. 23 Michigan St. 92, N.C.-Asheville 63
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—When Tom Izzo preached selflessness, his Michigan State point guards got that point and produced 30 others.
Chris Hill and Drew Neitzel, prolific scorers in other years, combined for 15 assists and no turnovers and the 23rd-ranked Spartans beat North Carolina-Asheville 92-63 on Wednesday night.
“Never, ever in the history of Michigan State University,” Izzo said when asked when he last saw that assist-to-turnover ratio. “No insult to Earvin (Johnson), Scott (Skiles), Eric (Snow) or Mateen (Cleaves), but that is a pretty impressive stat.
“And I thought some of the assists were pretty good ones.”
Good enough to help Paul Davis, Kelvin Torbert, Alan Anderson and Shannon Brown shoot a combined 66.7 percent from the field for the Spartans (8-2), who led by as many as 37 points in their only game in a 15-day span.
Davis and Torbert each had 15 points, Anderson had 14, Brown 13 and Maurice Ager 11, as Michigan State shot 56.4 percent from the field and 84 percent at the free throw line.
“Our points were doing a great job of passing the ball and moving it around,” said Davis, who had eight rebounds. “The rest of us had some unforced turnovers. But we really did play hard today.
“And this team has been unselfish all along.”
That willingness to share, especially in transition, showed up in the Spartans’ 27-2 edge in fastbreak points, keyed by 13 steals and a 36-25 rebound advantage.
“When we distribute the ball like that, we’re awfully, awfully good,” Hill said after nine assists gave him 46 with just 14 turnovers this season. “When we’re getting that many assists (26), it means guys are making a lot of shots. We’re going to be hard to guard that way.”
Hill, No. 7 in Big Ten history in 3-pointers, took just five shots from the field and scored eight points. Neitzel attempted just three shots but had six assists with his three points.
“It’s pretty remarkable, but we’re capable of that night in and night out,” Neitzel said. “I don’t think Coach Izzo will have any complaints if we continue to do that. But Chris and I work so well together, especially when we’re both on the floor.”
Omar Collington and Steven Rush each had 14 points for UNC Asheville (3-7), which committed 21 turnovers and lost center C.J. Walker with five fouls in 7 minutes.
The Spartans, who led 15-4, had six dunks in taking a 42-18 halftime lead, including Brown’s alley-oop from Hill for the game’s first basket and consecutive slams by Davis on high feeds from Neitzel and Anderson.
Michigan State finished the job with a 15-6 run to start the second half in its final tuneup for next Wednesday’s Big Ten opener at Penn State.
“I think by the end of the season, they will be much better,” Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach said of the Spartans. “I think they have the makings of a great team here.”