STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Down at halftime, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo threatened to really leave his listless team behind — as in an extra night on the road in Happy Valley.
“I told them we were staying here New Year’s,” Izzo said. “Everything’s closed down here. It would have been a good place to keep them.”
Truth is, the Spartans were getting on their plane no matter the outcome, and it was only a matter of time before they got rolling against overmatched Penn State.
Branden Dawson finished with 20 points and No. 5 Michigan State clamped down on defense in the second half to beat Penn State 79-63 on Tuesday in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams.
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“Our halftime wasn’t a lot of fun,” Izzo said.
Michigan State (12-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) trailed 47-40 at the break but outscored the Nittany Lions 39-16 in the second half.
“It was a very, very, very disappointing first half,” Izzo said in a radio interview after the game. “But give our guys credit. At least they went in at halftime and I think everybody got after everybody and they responded. That’s kind of what you want in a team, a team that responds.”
In the second half, Penn State (9-5, 0-1) made 5 of 20 shots and didn’t have an assist.
“I think we let missing shots dictate our effort,” coach Pat Chambers said. “It’s unfortunate, because the team I envisioned played in the first half.”
Ohio State improves to 13-0
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – LaQuinton Ross collected 25 points and 12 rebounds, both career highs, and fellow junior Shannon Scott added a career-best 18 points to help third-ranked Ohio State beat Purdue 78-69 in another Big Ten opener for both teams.
“I thought down the stretch, our veterans were as good as they could be,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said after the Buckeyes improved to 14-0.
Ross and Scott combined for all of the points in a decisive 10-2 second-half run that finally gave Ohio State some breathing room.
Sophomore A.J. Hammons had 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks for the Boilermakers (10-4).
Orr dies at 86
Johnny Orr, who was a Division I men’s coach for 29 seasons, has died at age 86.
Orr had a record of 466-346 at Iowa State, Michigan and Massachusetts.
• In other games involving Top 10 teams, second-ranked Syracuse beat Eastern Michigan 70-48 and No. 7 Duke routed Elon 86-48.