for this game

Morgan leads Michigan State past Minnesota

Jan 6, 2008 - 6:17 AM EAST LANSING, Michigan (Ticker) -- Minnesota gave Michigan State all it could handle, but the Golden Gophers couldn't handle Raymar Morgan.

Morgan scored a career-high 31 points to lead the sixth-ranked Spartans to a 65-59 victory on Saturday in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams.

The Spartans have now won 10 straight overall and their last six conference home openers. They had not opened their conference slate at home since 2003 and Morgan was the difference in this one turning out the way it did.

"He keeps on getting better, he's getting better in the huddles and he keeps maturing," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of Morgan. "I thought in every aspect he did the job, rebounding, defending shooting and running the lane, handling the huddles he was awesome."

Morgan was 11-of-17 from the field and added 10 rebounds to help Michigan State outrebound Minnesota, 45-25. The Spartans needed every bit of Morgan's performance to make up for a sub-par outing by senior guard Drew Neitzel and a gritty performance by the Golden Gophers.

Neitzel entered the game averaging 14.5 points and 4.6 assists but was just 2-of-11 from the field en route to four points and missed all six of his 3-pointers on Saturday.

Playing in its first Big Ten game under coach Tubby Smith, Minnesota hung around and pulled within 58-57 with 3:52 to play with a 15-4 run.

"I thought our guys gave a really good effort tonight," Smith said. "I certainly want to compliment Michigan State. We had no answer for Raymar Morgan. We just couldn't find a way to slow him down. He's such a great athlete and he runs the floor so well. I thought our kids stepped up and played hard."

Michigan State answered with a 7-0 spurt, including a free throw and a layup by Morgan, to put the game out of reach.

"The team did a great job of getting me open shots and open looks where I could score and create," Morgan said. "I think I'm more aggressive and my teammates are giving me the ball where I can score and I think I'm taking advantage of it."

Freshman Kalin Lucas had 17 points off the bench for the Spartans, who have won seven of the last eight games and 12 of the last 15 against the Golden Gophers.

"Then Kalin Lucas is the other guy that is continuing to get better," Izzo said. "He's really done a good job of adjusting."

Spencer Tollackson score 12 points for Minnesota, which was outscored 17-4 in fastbreak points.

"The things we didn't do well were the transition defense and rebounding the ball," Smith said. "Those are the two things Michigan State excels in and we have to figure out how to improve in those areas."