STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Michigan State played short-handed for a half Wednesday, but when all was said and done, it mattered little.
Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson did not start for the Spartans after being involved in an altercation at the team hotel Wednesday morning. However, both entered the game early in the second half and sparked the decisive run in No. 18 Michigan State's 81-72 victory over Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Payne finished with a career-high 20 points, scoring eight straight at one point, while Dawson chipped in five points, six rebounds, three assists and a block.
Michigan State (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) also got 14 points from Gary Harris, while Derrick Nix and Keith Appling each scored 12. Travis Trice chipped in 11.
Jermaine Marshall kept Penn State (8-9, 0-5) in the game, scoring a game-high 29. D.J. Newbill added 27 for the Nittany Lions.
Well before the game started, police were called to Michigan State's team hotel after an scuffle between Payne and Dawson around 11 a.m. The players reportedly hit each other, and one allegedly was thrown into a wall, but no charges were filed.
Each player sat out the entire first half and came into the game with 16:37 to play. That's when Payne went to work, helping Michigan State turn a tight game into a blowout.
However, Penn State would not go away, cutting the Michigan State lead to five points in the final two minutes before the Spartans iced the game at the free-throw line.
Playing short-handed was detrimental to Michigan State in the first half, though the Spartans held onto a 29-25 lead at the break.
The Spartans started quickly, making three of their first four shots, but they went just 7-for-21 the rest of the way before halftime.
Newbill took advantage of Payne and Dawson being on the bench, attacking Michigan State in the lane and scoring nine first-half points. Jermaine Marshall added seven points for the Nittany Lions, who also hung close on the glass. The Spartans held only a 16-13 rebounding advantage at halftime.
Michigan State got nine first-half points from Harris, who was coming off a 1-for-11 performance in a victory over Nebraska, and six each from Appling and Trice.
NOTES: Penn State averaged 78.5 points per game in its final four non-conference games but it averaged just 49.5 points in its first four Big Ten games. ... Wednesday's game was the only meeting of the season between the teams. ... Russell Byrd's first-half 3-pointer was his first in six games. Counted on to be a weapon from the perimeter, Byrd entered the game just 6-for-33 from long range.