EAST LANSING, Mich. – Tom Izzo is usually hard to please, consistently finding fault with his teams following victories.
After No. 3 Michigan State beat No. 5 Notre Dame 81-63 on Thursday night, he looked and sounded uncharacteristically happy after a game.
“I shouldn't complain about one thing,” Izzo said.
And that, even for Izzo, would have been hard to do.
Joshua Langford scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half to help the Spartans lead 46-26, and they had to answer just one rally to earn a lopsided victory.
The Spartans (6-1) have won five straight, including a rout against then-No. 9 North Carolina to win a PK80 Invitational bracket, after losing to top-ranked Duke.
“Since that game, we've rebounded a little better,” Izzo said.
Michigan State had 42 rebounds, twice as many as the Irish.
“They torched us,” Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson said.
The Spartans held the Irish to 44 percent shooting, another factor that helped the home team have a 17-7 edge in fast-break points.
“You defend, you rebound and you run – that's been the staple of our program,” Izzo said. “And if it ain't broke, don't fix it.”
The Irish (6-1) cut their deficit to seven points with 13:09 left but couldn't get closer against a team with a lot of options on offense that is defending and rebounding as if it is in midseason form under its Hall of Fame coach.
In the marquee matchup of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Spartans turned a highly anticipated game into a showcase of their talent and depth.
“They come at you with fresh bodies, they just keep coming at you and it takes its toll,” Irish coach Mike Brey said.
Michigan State's Cassius Winston had 17 points and seven assists, Miles Bridges scored 14 points and Nick Ward added 12.
“They are a lot of people who can hurt you,” Winston said. “It's probably pretty difficult to stop us.”
Colson had 11 of his 17 points in the second half and Matt Farrell was scoreless in the first half and finished with 10 points. The two were combining to average 38 points before the game.
“If they don't get it going early, the rest of our group, we get a little worried and concerned,” Brey said. “I give Michigan State credit for taking away our two main weapons for really the first 15 minutes.”
Rex Pflueger scored 15 and T.J. Gibbs added 11 points for the Irish.
Notre Dame: The Irish, coming off a Maui Invitational championship, found out how far they have to go to compete with the best.
“It's all about how you bounce back and we get to practice that now,” Brey said.
Michigan State: Early in the season, the Spartans are playing perhaps as well as they have at both ends of the court.
“Defensively, we are doing a better job and we're causing some problems,” Izzo acknowledged.
Notre Dame played at Michigan State for the first time since 1974, and Brey said he has no interest in scheduling a home-and-home series. “It ain't happening,” he said, adding he would be OK with playing the Spartans every five years in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.