By LARRY LAGE/AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – New Orleans started strong, giving the fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans more competition than they expected.
The Privateers, though, failed to sustain their early success.
Keith Appling scored 16 of his career-high tying 27 points in the first half to help Michigan State pull away and rout New Orleans 101-48 Saturday.
“We had a good 10-minute start,” New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger said. “We played at a high level, the way we needed to play.”
Before the Spartans took control they had more turnovers (six) than made shots (four) against a fired-up team aiming for an upset.
New Orleans faded away, falling to 7-30 against ranked teams.
“We took some ill-timed shots that were outside of our game plan,” Slessinger said. “We wanted to shorten the game and make it almost a little ugly and really try to work the clock and try to get the best shot we could. We got out of our comfort zone and our game plan for this game and that allowed them to make runs.”
Matt Derenbecker scored 16 and Cory Dixon had 11 points for the Privateers (3-5), who had won two straight.
Slessinger said playing the Spartans, one of five of six teams he expects to be in a postseason tournament, has gotten his program ready to compete in the Southland Conference.
“It’s really helped us and made us better,” Slessinger said. “This was a great environment and a great test for our guys.”
The Spartans (11-1) struggled for several minutes before taking control with a 12-0 run midway through the first half. They led 44-27 at halftime and easily added to their comfortable cushion in the second half, finishing with their highest-scoring game since beating Nebraska-Omaha 110-68 two years ago.
Gary Harris scored 19 on 7-of-17 shooting and Adreian Payne had 17 points for the Spartans in their final tuneup before beginning the Big Ten season Tuesday night at Penn State. Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine had 10 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and six assists.
The Spartans rested starting forward Branden Dawson because of a shin bruise.
Appling bounced back from a bad game, equaling the career high in scoring that he set last month against Oklahoma. The senior point guard was held to four points, playing with a hip pointer, after making just 2 of 11 shots in last week’s 14-point win at Texas.
He also matched a season high with eight assists and grabbed five rebounds against New Orleans, whose coach knew what was coming from a player he has watched closely.
“Being from the Midwest, I’m still a Big Ten junkie and I watch Big Ten stuff,” said Slessinger, who is from Bloomington, Ind. “He’s always been underrated nationally. We didn’t stop him in transition and he played a very, very efficient game.”
Harris responded with a poor start against New Orleans with a solid game offensively. The sophomore shooting guard was 0 for 5 before a second straight 3-pointer capped Michigan State’s pivotal run that gave it a 21-10 lead.
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