EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Michigan State got off to a sluggish start and got a spark from a role player.
Javon Bess scored nine of his 13 points in the first half and matched a season high with six rebounds to help the third-ranked Spartans pull away to beat Eastern Michigan 89-65 Monday night.
“Javon was definitely a bright spot,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
The Spartans (4-0) began the game uninspired, giving up the first four points and leading by just two points midway through the first half. They closed the first half relatively well to lead 40-25 at halftime, were ahead by 28 midway through the second half and were up by as much as 34 points in the game.
“Their first five is really good, but when you get into their bench, they don’t lose anything,” Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy said.
The Eagles (2-2) were led by Ty Toney’s 18 points and Willie Mangum, who scored 10.
“We feel that we can play with anybody,” Toney said. “When it got away, we kind of got a little down.”
Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine had 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while freshman Deyonta Davis scored a season-high 16 points and blocked five shots, matching his personal best.
“Deyonta’s stats look a lot better than his play,” Izzo lamented.
Bryn Forbes scored 12 and Eron Harris added 10 points for the Spartans.
Izzo pulled within a victory of No. 500 in his career.
“It’s not sexy to me,” he said. “It’s just another number.”
Izzo won 495 games over his first 20 seasons, trailing only the number of wins earned by Roy Williams (562), Bill Self (508), John Calipari (507) and Jerry Tarkanian (501) during their first two decades as coaches.
Eastern Michigan: The Eagles will not be without Lee much longer. “He’ll be back Dec. 1,” Murphy said. “His suspension will end then. He’s been practicing hard every day. We’re excited that he’ll be back. Raven learned a lesson, and he’ll be better for it.” Lee averaged a team-high 16.7 points last season and has not played this season because he was suspended indefinitely earlier this month for an unspecified violation of team rules. “When they get Raven lee back, that’s going to be a pretty good basketball team,” Izzo said.
Michigan State: Izzo would rather his players avoid technical fouls for taunting, but wasn’t really upset that the soft-spoken Davis was called for one. Davis followed up a dunk in the second half with some words for an Eagle, drawing a technical foul. “I can appreciate the emotion,” Izzo acknowledged. “But have emotion for our fans and players, but don’t have emotion for another player.”
The Eagles host Marygrove College, a Division II program, on Wednesday.
The Spartans face Boston College on Thursday in California, in the first of their three games over four days at the Wooden Legacy tournament. They will play No. 11 Arizona on Sunday in the final if both teams win twice. “Everyone is talking about Arizona, but we’ve got to get past Boston College,” Bess said.
MAGIC’S MESSAGE: Former Michigan State and Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson attended the game and talked to the Spartans after the game, lamenting they allowed Eastern Michigan to penetrate off the dribble too much and didn’t dominate with their bigger players in the paint. “The guy is amazing,” Izzo said. “He watches every game. The only reason I know that is he can talk about every player and everything.”
Michigan State power forward Gavin Schilling, who is still wearing a walking boot on his left foot to protect a toe injury, has not been cleared to practice and is out indefinitely. Izzo said Schilling will probably be out at least another week.
The Spartans had 26 assists – surpassing Eastern Michigan’s made baskets by three – on 31 of their baskets. They moved the ball well around the outside and inside against the Eagles’ zone, which is similar to the one Syracuse uses. That’s not a coincidence Rob Murphy, who is in his fifth season at the school, was an assistant for Jim Boeheim for seven seasons at Syracuse.
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