BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- After playing two consecutive relatively tight games, No. 1 Michigan State cruised to a 96-77 over Virginia Tech in the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Friday night at the Barclays Center.
Senior forward Adreian Payne led four Spartans (5-0) in double figures with 29 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Gary Harris scored 19 points, senior guard Keith Appling had 13 points and junior swing Branden Dawson added 12 points.
Michigan State opened the second half right where it ended the first half -- on a huge run. The Spartans used a 25-3 blitz in the first 9:23 of the second half to take control and move comfortably ahead 69-39.
Payne got the Spartans the lead after a sluggish first six minutes of the first half. He scored 13 of his 20 first-half points, including two long 3-pointers in a 19-5 Spartan run during the last 6:48 of the half that provided a 46-33 cushion.
The Spartans had struggled in the first half against Portland on Monday, leading by only four at 36-32 before eventually rolling to an 82-67 win. A slow start also had them in trouble against Columbia, which they trailed by four at halftime before pulling out a 62-53 victory on Nov. 15.
NOTES: Virginia Tech is 19-14 against teams in the Big Ten. ... The Hokies are 0-3 against top-ranked teams in neutral-site games. ... Michigan State has held opponents below 40 percent shooting from the field in each of the last two seasons. ... The Spartans have out-rebounded 77 percent of their opponents under coach Tom Izzo. ... The Spartans had lost three of their last five regular-season games on neutral courts against unranked teams before Friday night.