Jan. 5, 2008
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Behind Raymar Morgan's career-high 31 points and 10 rebounds, No. 6 Michigan State beat Minnesota 65-59 in the Big Ten opener for both teams Saturday night.
"I told some people that Raymar had a chance to be one of the best forwards ever to play here," Michigan State coach Izzo said of the versatile 6-foot-8 sophomore. "I know I've been tough on Raymar. We expect an awful lot from him. He reminds me of Morris (Peterson, the 2000 conference MVP)."
Morgan, the league's third-leading scorer, was 11-for-17 from the field and 9-for-12 from the line in his fifth game with at least 20 points. He has three double-doubles.
"Was it my best game?" Morgan said. "Probably so. My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball on the break. I just tried to let the game come to me."
Freshman Kalin Lucas came off the bench to boost the Spartans (13-1) with 17 points, including 12 in the first half. Goran Suton grabbed nine rebounds and played excellent defense in the final minutes of a foul-filled second half.
Spencer Tollackson led the Golden Gophers (10-3) with 12 points. Lawrence McKenzie added 10.
"I thought our guys gave a really good effort, but we had no answer for Raymar," first-year Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "He runs the floor extremely well."
Michigan State shot 50 percent from the field en route to a 33-26 halftime lead. Lucas was 5-for-6 in the first half.
After the Spartans built a 13-point lead early in the second half, Minnesota took advantage of turnovers and fouls and cut the deficit to 58-57.
But after Lucas' steal led to two free throws, Morgan built the lead back to six with a foul shot and a contested layup.
"We were coming out of a timeout, and coach said we had to be a little more aggressive on defense," Lucas said. "I just read the play and came up with the ball."
The teams exchanged leads through most of the first half as Morgan scored 15 points and the Gophers answered with four 3-pointers.
The Spartans scored the final seven points of the half as Minnesota cooled off and finished with 29-percent accuracy from the field.
Michigan State committed 12 of its 19 turnovers in the first half but owned the boards 45-25. The Spartans grabbed nearly half their missed shots and had seven more second-chance points.
With Lucas shifting into high gear, Michigan State had a 17-4 edge in points on the fastbreak. That was enough to overcome a 21-9 deficit beyond the arc.
Lucas, who had been shooting on his own or with a manager every night, had all the Spartans' points from long range in their 3-for-15 shooting beyond the arc. All-American Drew Neitzel was held to four points on 2-for-11 shooting.
"If Drew had been held to four a year ago, we'd have been in trouble," Morgan said. "We're so much deeper and more balanced this season. And to outrebound a Tubby Smith team by 20 shows a lot about our character."
No Gopher had more than four rebounds in Smith's first Big Ten game.
"As I told our freshmen, 'Welcome to the Big Ten!" Izzo said. "I have to give a lot of credit to Raymar Morgan, to Kalin Lucas and to Tubby Smith. Even though we outrebounded them by 20, I felt they took it to us physically. That team is for real."