Spartans Cruise Past Toledo

After watching his team sleepwalk through a 10-point win over a Mexican all-star team a week ago, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo laid down the law.

The third-ranked Spartans apparently got the message.

Morris Peterson had 19 points and 10 rebounds and the Spartans played almost air-tight defense Monday night to open their season with a 78-33 win over Toledo.

"We made a deal last week that we were going to change a couple of things as far as effort and performance," Izzo said. "One of those things was that we were going to play Spartan basketball."

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  • Spartan basketball, to Izzo, is players diving for loose balls and getting the fans at Breslin Center into the game.

    "We are still maybe not as sharp offensively, so we have to get it done in those areas and get the loose balls," Izzo said.

    Greg Stempin scored 16 points for Toledo (1-1). Andre Hutson had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans and Charlie Bell added 11 for the Spartans, playing without Mateen Cleaves, who is recovering from a stress fracture to his right foot.

    The outcome of the game was never in doubt as the Spartans, playing the tight defense that helped them land a berth in the Final Four last season, held Toledo to 13-of-50 shooting.

    "Coach stressed all week that he wanted us to come out and play hard defensively," said Peterson, who made a name for himself last season by leading the team in scoring despite just four starts. "He said everything else would take care of itself."

    The Rockets, who beat George Mason in their opener Friday night, fell behind 10 seconds into the game on a basket by Peterson and never caught up. Michigan State held the Rockets without a basket for almost nine minuts in the first half while opening a 28-7 lead on the strength of a 16-1 run.

    "Guys were a little nervous coming out," Stempin said. "This will probably make us stronger."

    Toledo, favored to win the West Division of the Mid-American Conference this season, went scoreless over the final 7:54 of the game. Part of that was due to the Spartans' defense, which had a 45-20 rebounding advantage.

    "I think you see a difference when you go to the next level," said Toledo coach Stan Joplin, who was an assistant with Izzo on Jud Heathcote's teams from 1990-95. "They're a lot more athletic than we are."

    "I don't think Michigan State is 45 points better than we are. But it shows what can happen in basketball."

    The Spartans, 33-5 last season, became the only one of last season's Final Four teams to open this season with a victory. The others Duke, Connecticut and Ohio State all lost their openers.

    "We wanted to come out and avoid being upset," Peterson said. "We knew the other Top Four teams from last year were upset, and we wanted to come out and show some enthusiasm."

    Still, it seemed almost a slam-dunk for the Spartans. Michigan State hasn't lost an opener since the start of the 1976-77 season, Heathcote's first year as coach of the Spartans. In fact, in 100 seasons, Michigan State has lost only 21 openers.

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