Michigan State used stifling defense and near flawless offensive execution to take down the team from the Big 12 Conference.
"That was an interesting game for a coach because as all of you could imagine we didn't feel real good about last night, the way we played or how we handled anything to be honest," said Spartans coach Tom Izzo. "I think the credit definitely goes to the players and it's not easy to bounce back with one-day prep and coaches on you about things."
The hangover from the Spartans 80-62 Thanksgiving Day loss to Maryland didn't last long, as Michigan State weathered an early barrage of threes by Oklahoma State and then tightened the screws defensively. The Spartans went on a 21-2 run to give them some breathing room and were able to take a 44-29 lead into halftime.
"We're a different team when we're running, we're a different team when we check it and Travis did a great job of knowing where to get guys," Izzo said.
As poor as the stat sheet looked for the Spartans just 24 hours prior is how great it looked at the halfway point of game two. Michigan State hit on 17 of their 29 shots from the field for 58.6%, including three of their five three-point attempts. The Spartans also seemed to cure their woes from the line as they hit seven of their ten attempts. Defensively, Michigan State held the Cowboys to just 36% shooting (9 of 36 field goals), and forced 14 first half turnovers.
Raymar Morgan bounced back from his nightmare game against Maryland to lead the Spartans with nine first half points despite playing just seven minutes as he was again in foul trouble.
"It was definitely just a challenge," Morgan explained to reporters. "Coach challenged me a little bit and I just felt that I did some things that I know I could've did better in yesterday's game and I could've just played better."
The two teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the second half before Michigan State again displayed their inside dominance as Delvon Roe scored a pair of baskets inside. A coast to coast drive by Kalin Lucas following an Oklahoma State miss put the Spartans up 55-36 early in the second half, and it would be clear sailing for the green and white from there, as the Cowboys could get no closer than a 14 point deficit. Lucas finished with 12 points and 10 assists, and committed just one turnover.
"I have to look at the film because we've been talking about is everyone running with him, but I told him that it's time for him to just push it like he's capable of and then make good decisions when he gets down to the other end," Izzo said of Lucas. "If it's not there, pull it out. I thought he attacked, he passed out, he made very few bad decisions."
Raymar Morgan proved that Thursday night's game was an aberration as he led the Spartans in scoring with 29 points on 9-11 shooting from the field, and 11-13 from the free throw line.
"He really responded and had an incredible game and he shot well from the line and he shot well from the field," Izzo said of Morgan. "He did everything you could do and still he didn't play that many minutes."
"It's all confidence and reps," Walton said as he described his offensive output. "I shot the ball so much this summer that coaches were saying ‘Hey man, you've got to stay out of the gym, rest yourself a little bit.' I worked hard and it's just starting to pay off a little bit."
The Spartans shot nearly 60% from the field, hitting on 35 of 59 field goal attempts, 50% from behind the arc (5-10), and 73.1% from the free throw line (19-26). All three percentages were significantly higher than a night ago, when they shot just 42.1% from the field, 22.2% from behind the arc, and just 44.4% from the line.
"I'm not sure how we played last night, I know Maryland made some shots and played pretty good, but we were playing with such a depleted team that it was hard to sit whoever got in sync," Izzo explained. "Tonight we got into the flow of it a little bit more so there was a combination of things."
Overall, the Spartans were clearly the more aggressive, more talented, and much more dominant team from whistle to buzzer. Michigan State will take on Wichita State in the fifth-place game Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. EST.