The Bruins didn’t spend enough time worrying about Michigan State’s outside shooting.
The 11th-ranked Spartans hit 10 first-half 3-pointers and built as much as a 29-point lead by halftime. They coasted to an 87-67 victory over No. 17 UCLA in the opening night of the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena on Thursday.
MSU (4-1) moves on to face Texas in the title game at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday (Fox). The unranked Longhorns (5-0) upset No. 7 North Carolina, 92-89, in the first game of the tournament.
Cassius Winston had 19 points and seven assists, and Nick Ward added 16 points and five rebounds. Joshua Langford scored 14 and Matt McQuaid 11.
Winston hit MSU’s first 3-pointer off a kick-out pass from Nick Ward in the first 2 minutes of the game. And the Spartans pushed the pace early, including a pair of Ward buckets.
But it was a 3-pointer by Marcus Bingham Jr. that began the barrage and blowout. The freshman, Izzo managing his minutes, connected from deep with 15:45 to play in the period to spark a 12-0 run.
Then Langford, despite committing four first-half turnovers, hit on back-to-back possessions from behind the arc. Then Winston hit. And then Kyle Ahrens hit a pair. Matt McQuaid buried MSU’s 10th 3-pointer of the half with 2:44 left in the half, and Winston followed a minute later with a layup to put MSU ahead 51-22.
The Spartans shot 60 percent in the opening half, including 10 of 17 from deep. Winston and Langford each connected on three 3-pointers and combined for 26 first-half points.
MSU continued to shoot well in the second half and finished at 51.6 percent, making 13 of 24 from 3-point range.
While the Spartans shot the ball at a sizzling pace, the defense Izzo has been demanding finally showed up against the much bigger Bruins (4-1).
UCLA shot just 8 of 33 from the field and 1 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half. MSU’s big men held 7-foot-1 freshman Moses Brown scoreless with six rebounds but two fouls and two turnovers in 10 minutes. Brown – who entered the game averaging 17.3 points and 12.0 rebounds – finished with five points and 10 boards.
Kenny Goins controlled the boards early, grabbing seven of his game-high 13 rebounds in eight minutes of work before halftime.
MSU also turned that defense into offense by getting out and running, with six official fastbreak points but a number of other buckets in transition that wore down UCLA.
Kris Wilkes’s 15 points led the Bruins, who shot just 35.6 percent from the floor and got outrebounded 37-33. They face the Tar Heels at 4 p.m. Friday in the losers’ game.