Dec. 1, 2007
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Raymar Morgan felt comfortable again, and that meant great discomfort for every overmatched opponent who tried to stop him.
With 24 points, one off his career high, plus a game-high seven rebounds, Morgan helped No. 10 Michigan State beat Jacksonville 80-51 on Saturday night.
But the 6-foot-7 forward did more than that with enthusiasm that became contagious.
"The love was starting to show out there," Morgan said after hitting eight of 11 shots from the field for the Spartans (6-1). "I'm just really loving the game right now."
His coach, Tom Izzo, loved everything about Morgan's play in a game with other disappointments.
"Raymar was very, very good," Izzo said. "His stats look real good. But they aren't indicative of how well he played. Considering his defense, it was one of his best all-around games."
"We wanted to get the crowd into it, and that helped," Gray said. "If we start strong, we finish that way."
Another freshman, Chris Allen, had 10 points, including two 3's from well beyond the arc. Preseason All-American Drew Neitzel also scored 10 points after a scoreless first half and had seven assists and only one turnover.
"I'm disappointed with that," Izzo said. "Drew missed some some shots he'd normally make. And we have to find a way to get him six, seven or eight more shots."
Neitzel wasn't as concerned about that as he was with upcoming games at Bradley and against BYU in Salt Lake City next week.
"We're still learning how to play with each other," Neitzel said. "We've made significant progress that way. But we could've buried them right from the start. Instead, we let them hang in the game."
Ben Smith, the smallest player on the court at 5-foot-10, had 16 points for the Dolphins (3-3), who had the game's first basket, then missed eight straight shots and were outscored 13-0 over the next 5:09.
Michigan State led 38-28 at halftime.
The winners finished with a 34-29 edge on the boards and shot 55.8 percent from the field. Michigan State had a 46-20 edge in points in the paint and a 17-3 advantage at the foul line, including 8-for-8 work by Morgan.
Jacksonville shot 38.2 percent and had 15 turnovers.
"Until the last 4 minutes of the game, I think we were leading in rebounds," Jacksonville coach Cliff Warren said. "One of our points of emphasis was to play as physical as we could because we knew Michigan State was a very physical basketball team."