East Lansing was frigid on Friday night for the home opener, but nothing could cool down the Spartans. The Loyola (IL) Ramblers were victims of an offensive onslaught led by Marvin Clark, Jr. and Branden Dawson. MSU was firing on all cylinders and rolled to an easy 87-52 win.
From opening tip to the final buzzer, MSU dominated the paint. The undersized Ramblers struggled to guard the taller, bulkier Spartans. Matt Costello posted a double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Gavin Schilling added eight points and three rebounds down low.
“Today we (Costello and Schilling) both went at it and it opened things up for everybody else,” Costello said. “And that builds our confidence and our guards’ confidence to throw it to us.”
The Spartans outscored Loyola 46-14 in the paint and outrebounded the Ramblers 40-23.
Michigan State regained their shooting stroke after chucking up a cringe-worthy 5-20 against Duke from three-point land. They shot 63 percent from the field and 50 percent from downtown against the Ramblers. However, free throws continued to be the Achilles heel for MSU, as they only shot 46 percent from the charity stripe.
MSU opened the game on a 15-2 run and never looked back from there. Loyola could never get into an offensive rhythm, mostly due to a much-improved Spartan defense. The Ramblers only shot 34.5 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-PT range.
Loyola did not reach double digits until 4:35 remaining in the first half and could only muster 14 points in the first 20 minutes. That total was the fewest number of points scored by an MSU opponent at halftime since Arkansas-Pine Bluff scored 12 in 2012.
“That was painful,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said in the post game press conference.
The Spartans played unselfish basketball and their passes were crisp. They assisted on 27 of 36 buckets, with Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn dishing out seven apiece.
Turnovers plagued MSU in their loss to Duke and they still remained an issue against the lesser Ramblers. The Spartans gave the ball away 15 times, including three from Valentine. He had five against the Blue Devils and struggled with the same problem last year.
Freshman swingman Clark, Jr. was the surprise of the night for Coach Izzo. The lefty exploded for a career-high 15 points while hitting 3-4 threes. He showed some ridiculous upside with that silky jumper, which surprises many opposing defenses.
“I still don’t think people respect me as much, but that’s fine with me,” Clark, Jr. said.
Dawson scored 15 points and ripped down seven boards, and Trice added 13 points of his own. The Spartans take on the Santa Clara Broncos on Monday night at 7 p.m. in the Breslin Center as part of the Orlando Classic.