Michigan State Wins Season Opener
November 13, 1998
By HARRY ATKINS
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Tom Izzo got just what he wanted in the season opener for Michigan State: A little competition for about 20 minutes, then a blowout.
Antonio Smith scored 16 points, and Mateen Cleaves dished out 11 assists as the No. 5 Spartans rolled to an 89-58 victory over Northeast Louisiana on Friday night.
"We have a long way to go, but it was a good start," said Izzo, the Associated Press coach of the year after guiding the Spartans to a 22-8 record last season. "If there was an encouraging sign, it was that we had a lot of players getting after it on the floor."
The Spartans literally wore down Northeast Louisiana. Michigan State, with one of the deepest benches in the country, used 12 players and 10 scored. The Indians dressed only nine players, one of whom fouled out with 5:38 remaining.
"Maybe we wore them down in the second half," Smith said. "Once they got tired, we just kind of put them away."
It was the eighth double-digit assist game for Cleaves, the Big Ten player of the year last season when he led the Spartans to a share of the conference regular season championship and the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. He also scored 10 points.
Mike Smith had 13 points for Northeast Louisiana.
The Indians, with only one starter back from last season's 13-17 team - and no seniors - scored the first basket but didn't lead again. Still, the Indians - hitting 5-of-15 from 3-point range - were down only 37-30 at halftime.
"We hit some 3s, which was good at the time," said Mike Vining, starting his 18th season as Indians coach. "In the second half, we want to continue to do that. We've got good shooters, but we've got to take good shots."
Northeast Louisiana hit only one more 3-pointer the rest of the way, finishing 6-for-23 from long range.
But the bigger factor was the Spartans' bench. With Smith scoring six of the first 11 points of the second half, Michigan State opened a 48-34 lead and steadily pulled away.
The Spartans, who had a 50-35 edge in rebounds, shot 50 percent, holding Northeast Louisiana to 33-percent shooting.
It was the 22nd straight opening victory for Michigan State, which is beginning its 100th year of basketball.
Scott Skiles, who played for the Spartans from 1982 until 1986, had his No. 4 jersey retired during a halftime ceremony. Skiles joined former coach Jud Heathcote, Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser and Johnny Green among the rafters at Breslen Student Center.
The native of Plymouth, Ind., was honored in a video tribute from Heathcote, who set high standards for Skiles.
"I want to talk about the Old Man, Jud," said Skiles, an assistant coach with the NBA's Phoenix Suns. "Even when I would get in trouble at school, he stuck by me because he believed in me.
"I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for him."
The university had been trying to find a mutual date with Skiles for this ceremony for some time. He was able to make the weekend trip to East Lansing because of the NBA lockout.
Skiles, the No. 3 scorer in Michigan State history with 2,145 points, still holds the school record for assists (645) and steals (175).
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