By CAREY J. WILLIAMS/ Associated Press
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – Former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote was on hand to watch the Spartans handle a hostile crowd and send Gonzaga to only its seventh loss at its campus gym since 2004 as the Spartans beat Gonzaga 74-67 Saturday.
Draymond Green scored a career-high 34 points to lead Michigan State over the No. 23 Bulldogs on Saturday night. “I love Spokane,” said the versatile Green, who scored from all over the floor against a variety of defenders. “We’ve had tremendous success here. I guess Jud (Heathcote) brings the luck.”
Heathcote was one of 6,000 fans in attendance. He won a national title with the Magic Johnson-led Spartans in 1979. Heathcote retired to Spokane and is a Gonzaga men’s basketball season-ticket holder.
Adreian Payne had nine points for Michigan State (8-2), and Derrick Nix and Keith Appling added eight apiece.
David Stockton had a career best with 19 points to lead Gonzaga (5-2). Robert Sacre had 16 points and freshman Gary Bell Jr. added 13. This was Gonzaga’s second consecutive loss to a Big Ten opponent. The Bulldogs lost to No. 24 Illinois 82-75 last Saturday.
The victory is Michigan State’s eighth in a row after back-to-back losses to No. 4 North Carolina and No. 7 Duke.
“Draymond Green was the man tonight. I can’t speak enough about him,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “This summer, he spent an incredible amount of time on his shot.” Green was 11 of 13 from the field, including 4 of 5 from behind the arc, and made 8 of 9 from the free-throw line.
“I played pretty good when I played here in the tournament but not like tonight,” Green said. Michigan State last played in Spokane during the 2010 NCAA tournament, when they defeated New Mexico State 85-83 at the Spokane Arena.
The Spartans held Gonzaga to 43 percent shooting and forced the Bulldogs into 20 turnovers.
Gonzaga trailed 60-48 with 6:07 left before Stockton scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, during an 11-3 run.
Green answered Stockton’s 3-pointer with one of his own to give the Spartans a 65-56 lead. But Gonzaga responded with Pangos’ make from behind the arc.
Appling made two free throws for Michigan State to make it 67-59 but Nix his two free-throws with 1:39 on the clock. The Spartans missed 7 of 16 free throw attempts in the final 3 minutes but only allowed one Gonzaga field goal in the final 2:50 to secure the win.
Gonzaga struggled to score in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Harris and Sacre combined to score seven of Gonzaga’s 11 points during the stretch.
Green scored seven of his teams’ first nine points of the second half to give the Spartans a 44-38 lead. Green continued his dominance, hitting his third 3-pointer of the game, giving Michigan a 10-point lead with 13:45 remaining.
“Draymond Green was brilliant tonight,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “If you double him, he can pass out of it. He’s just a really, really special college player. He does everything well. Bell made two 3-pointers in the first 5 minutes of the game to help Gonzaga to a 12-7 lead.
The Spartans answered the 7-0 Gonzaga run with a 13-5 run of their own to make it 20-17. Green scored five points during an 11-1 stretch to give the Spartans their largest lead of the half at 31-24. Gonzaga made 7 of 8 free throws to cut its deficit to 35-34 at the break.
Green led all scorers with 14 points in the first half but had two fouls and did not play the final 2:21. Bell got his first career start and had 11 first-half points for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs made four of six 3-pointers in the first half.
Both teams struggled with ball control in the opening 20 minutes, as Gonzaga turned it over 13 times and Michigan State had nine turnovers.
Heathcote received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd prior to the game and Few and Izzo presented him with an autographed basketball.
“That (ovation) was awesome,” Izzo said. “That brought tears to my eyes. He’s been such a good guy and he’s so important to me.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)