No. 1 Michigan State fends off Portland
East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Keith Appling tied a career high with 25 points and Michigan State, the nation's newly crowned No. 1 team, pulled away down the stretch to record an 82-67 win over Portland at the Breslin Center.
Appling went a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point range and added seven assists for Michigan State (4-0), which got all it could handle from the pesky Pilots before assuming control via a 14-4 run midway through the second half that snapped a 46-46 tie.
"That was one of the greatest point guard performances in many, many, many years when you look at what he shot and the decisions he made," Spartans head coach Tom Izzo said of Appling. "He did just an unbelievable job defensively. He was worth the price of admission."
Adreian Payne added 19 points and Gary Harris netted 15 just hours after the Spartans were elevated into the No. 1 spot in the polls following last week's victory over then top-ranked Kentucky.
Kevin Bailey paced Portland (1-2) with 12 points, while Ryan Nicholas and Bobby Sharp each had 11 in the loss.
Michigan State brought a 51-game home winning streak in November in addition to its impressive verdict over Kentucky into the matchup, but Portland didn't seem the least bit intimidated. The Pilots traded baskets with the Spartans for much of the first half and played them dead even as the clock ticked under 13 minutes to go.
Backup guard Travis Trice then gave Michigan State a much-needed spark, canning a corner three off an Appling feed to break the deadlock and coming up with a steal and layup moments later to put the Spartans up by a 51-46 count.
Following a TV timeout, Michigan State caught fire from the perimeter to create some distance. Appling drained a 3-pointer and Harris struck twice from long distance within a span of under two minutes to increase the lead to 60-50 just past the midway stage of the second half.
"The big thing was our energy level," said Appling. "That's where we were lacking in the first half. Once we picked that up, everything was good."
The Pilots ran out of gas thereafter, going scoreless for a near three-minute stretch to end any hopes of an upset. Trice hit another three to give Michigan State a 69-54 lead with under 6:39 remaining, and Portland never threatened the rest of the way.
"We hung in there for 30 [minutes]," said Pilots head coach Eric Reveno. "It was good and we did battle; that's the main thing. We hung with them and we saw what the top of college basketball looked like."
Appling knocked down a 3-pointer with 6:12 left in the opening half to give Michigan State its largest lead of the period at 30-23, but the Pilots responded with a 9-1 run over the next three minutes to move in front. Sharp buried a trey and Volodymyr Gerun followed with a successful tip-in on Portland's subsequent possession to give the underdogs a one-point edge.
The Pilots failed to score over the remainder of the session, however. Branden Dawson sank a turnaround jumper in the lane to put the Spartans back in front, and Appling capped off a 16-point half with his fourth triple of the night to send Michigan State into the intermission with a 36-32 advantage.
Two Appling free throws and a Harris layup to begin the second half extended the margin to eight points, but Portland still would not go away. Sharp hit another 3-pointer to get the Pilots back on track, and Nicholas led a 9-2 flurry not long afterward that knotted the score at 46-46.
The game was part of the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, in which Michigan State will head to Brooklyn's Barclay Center on Friday for a semifinal matchup with Virginia Tech ... The Spartans are ranked No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time since Jan. 2, 2001 and only the second in Izzo's 19-year tenure as head coach ... Payne was named the Big Ten's Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in a pair of MSU wins ... The Spartans finished 13-for-30 on 3-pointers ... Portland's men's basketball program counts Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra among its alumni and has graduated 100 percent of its players since 2006 under Reveno.
11/18 23:44:15 ET