And the Spartans, ranked No. 2 in the preseason coaches' poll, sure looked different than they did a few days earlier in the exhibition opener at home against Ferris State.
On Sunday, they started quickly, closed the first half strong and pulled away in the second half to beat the Bulldogs, 80-68, in front of sold-out crowd. Georgia didn't go away quietly though. After Michigan State pushed the lead to 71-53, the Bulldogs cut the margin to single digits in the final two minutes but the Spartan held off the final surge.
The game raised just more than $339,000 for the American Red Cross as Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and Georgia coach Mark Fox helped present the check before the game.
Miles Bridges started slowly, missing his first six shots, but he started attacking the basket and finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Spartans. Nick Ward scored 13 and Joshua Langford added 11 points for Michigan State, which will finish exhibition play on Friday at home against Hillsdale.
Bloomfield Hills native Yante Maten scored 33 to lead Georgia. He was the only Bulldog to score in double figures.
Michigan State took some time to find an offensive rhythm and the Bulldogs took advantage, opening a 29-26 lead with just more than three minutes to play in the opening half. But the Spartans finished strong after Georgia led 31-29, going on an 11-0 run to close the half and take a 40-31 lead into the locker room.
Bridges scored nine of the 11 points as he started attacking the basket. The other bucket came on a mid-range jumper from Langford, who looked much more comfortable after going 0-for-12 from the field in the exhibition opener against Ferris State on Thursday.
Maten, who starred at Bloomfield Hills Lahser and as a senior at Bloomfield Hills High when Lahser and Andover merged, was Georgia's most effective weapon. Vote the co-Preseason Player of the Year in the SEC, the 6-foot-8 Maten had 15 points in the first half for the Bulldogs.
Michigan State kept pushing the pace to open the second half, extending its lead to 48-37 on a pair of free throws from Nick Ward with 15:52 to play.
The Bulldogs chipped away, cutting the deficit to 50-43 after a dunk from Nicolas Claxton but Michigan State scored the next four to push the advantage back into double digits and took its biggest lead at 61-45 after a 3-pointer from Matt McQuaid with a little more than eight minutes to play. The lead grew to 71-53 with five minutes to play before Georgia's final run.