Michigan State returned to the court for its first game since the Christmas break, and the Spartans showed no sign of any rust. Michigan State steamrolled Cleveland State, 111-61, to pick up its 12th straight win and improve to 13-1 on the season.
Michigan State hit its first seven shots to build up an early 18-4 lead. The game really never got much closer after that with the Spartans carrying a 38-point lead into halftime and leading by as many as 57 in the second half.
Sophomore guard Josh Langford led the way for Michigan State with 23 points and three assists. Sophomore forward Nick Ward was right behind him with 22 points. Ward also snagged 14 rebounds to pick up his third double-double of the season.
This blowout win comes as no surprise — Michigan State was favored by more than 30 points — but there are still some things we can takeaway from this game. Here are a few things we learned/saw in Friday night’s game.
What We Learned
1) Offense running at full throttle right now
Michigan State has scored 100 or more points in three straight games. Yes, that’s correct. That’s extremely hard to do at the college level — regardless of the competition — and proves how potent this Spartans offense really is.
Six different players reached double digits in points on Friday night as Michigan State fell just short of the school record for points in a game — the record is 121 points. The Spartans were consistently hitting shots, finishing the night with a 65.1 shooting percentage. They were even just as good from three-point land too, making 15-of-26 from behind the arc, which is 57.7 percent.
Turnovers continue to be an issue for this team — I’ll talk more about those below — but overall this offense is rounding into form and proving to be the best in the league. When everything is clicking on the offensive end like it did tonight, it’s nearly impossible to beat Michigan State.
2) Langford is All-Big Ten worthy
Entering the season I felt Langford was the biggest question mark on this team and if he took that next step then Michigan State would be that much harder to beat. We’ve officially seen that next step, and Friday was another perfect example of the progression he’s taken.
Langford scored 17-first half points against Cleveland State and finished the night as the Spartans leading scorer. He was an extremely efficient 9-for-12 from the field, which included a 4-for-5 performance from three-point range.
With another strong showing on Friday, Langford has now scored at least 14 points in five his last six games. That alone showcases how far he’s come and how he’s now a consistent scoring threat for the Spartans. That consistency on a game-to-game basis wasn’t there a year ago, and because of it we are now looking at someone who will contend for a first or second team All-Big Ten selection this season.
3) Turnovers were again noticed
Michigan State played a near-perfect game on Friday night, but yet again we saw an abundance of turnovers. The Spartans finished the night with 11 turnovers — which is actually lower than their season average — with a handful of careless mistakes.
Michigan State appeared destined for one of its best performances of the year when it came to the turnovers. However, the Spartans became careless down the stretch with the turnovers starting to pile up. Ultimately these late game turnovers didn’t matter because the game was in hand, but for a perfectionist like head coach Tom Izzo they still matter.
Earlier this week I wrote about the Spartans turnovers problem, and how it could cost them down the road. It obviously didn’t really play a role in tonight’s game and it won’t against teams of this caliber. But with the schedule getting tougher very soon, this will be an area to keep an eye on. It’ll be interesting to see if the Spartans can improve in this field moving forward or if it’ll just be part of their makeup for the rest of the season.
Michigan State did what it was supposed to in this game — dominate an inferior opponent. That’s important with it being the first of three games in seven days for the Spartans. The win also extends Michigan State’s win streak to 12 games, but overall Cleveland State isn’t very good so you can’t really look too much into this win. There were certainly some things to take away from this one — Langford’s consistent strong play for example — but this was really nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.