Spar­tans mag­i­cally break out

With Hall of Famer in au­di­ence, Michi­gan St. ends three-game skid

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - By Larry Lage

EAST LANS­ING, MICH. — Magic John­son was back at Michi­gan State, join­ing his team­mates to cel­e­brate the 40-year an­niver­sary of win­ning the na­tional cham­pi­onship.

The Hall of Famer and Los An­ge­les Lak­ers pres­i­dent had plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to flash his fa­mil­iar smile.

Nick Ward had 22 points and Matt Mc­Quaid scored a sea­son-high 18, lead­ing the ninth-ranked Spar­tans to a 79-55 win over Min­nesota on Satur­day to keep the fes­tiv­i­ties pos­i­tive.

“That’s why you come to places like this,” Mc­Quaid said. “This place is spe­cial.”

The Spar­tans (19-5, 10-3 Big Ten) ended a three-game los­ing streak, their long­est skid in two years.

Ward, in par­tic­u­lar, started the game in­spired and ap­peared to stay mo­ti­vated to bounce back from his pre­vi­ous home game. He was 1 of 9 at the free throw line, in­clud­ing a miss that would have put his team ahead late in reg­u­la­tion, and the Spar­tans were 8 of 22 as a team in a 79-75 over­time loss to In­di­ana last Sun­day.

“We’ve got to leave those games in the past and move for­ward,” Ward said. “I just came out de­ter­mined to do ev­ery­thing I could to win this game.”

Ward opened game with a bas­ket, grabbed eight of his nine re­bounds over the first 20 min­utes, and closed the first half with a block to help Michi­gan State lead Min­nesota 3524. The ju­nior for­ward made the first two shots af­ter half­time and the Spar­tans went on to lead by 28 points mid­way through the sec­ond half.

“I’ll give Nick Ward credit,” coach Tom Izzo said. “We got to fig­ure out how to keep that go­ing.”

Michi­gan State, which has strug­gled to stay healthy, may have an­other in­jury con­cern.

Se­nior for­ward Kenny Goins played just 7 min­utes in the first half and didn’t play af­ter half­time be­cause of a bruise on his left el­bow. X-rays were neg­a­tive, but Izzo doesn’t know if or how long Goins will be out of the start­ing lineup.

“I won’t know any­thing un­til (Sun­day), but at least I know it’s not bro­ken,” Izzo said.

Fresh­man Thomas Kithier took ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity to play in Goins’ place, scor­ing a sea­son­high eight points. Cas­sius Win­ston had 11 points and nine as­sists with­out a turnover for the Spar­tans.

The Golden Go­phers (16-8, 6-7) have lost a sea­son-high three games and the lat­est set­back was a rout in part be­cause their lead­ing scor­ers, Amir Cof­fey and Jor­dan Mur­phy, com­bined to score just nine points af­ter en­ter­ing the game scor­ing more than 30 points per game.

“We’re easy to guard right now,” coach Richard Pitino said.

Min­nesota’s Gabe Kalscheur scored 17 points and Daniel Oturu had 12 points, start­ing in place of for­ward Eric Curry, who was out with a calf in­jury.

“We need Eric back,” Pitino said. “We’re just a more com­plete team with him.”

REY DEL RIO/GETTY IM­AGES

NBA leg­end and for­mer Michi­gan State star Magic John­son speaks to the crowd dur­ing half­time of the game be­tween Michi­gan State and Min­nesota. Michi­gan State was cel­e­brat­ing the 40-year an­niver­sary of its na­tional cham­pi­onship vic­tory over In­di­ana State.

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