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Red-hot Michigan State rolls over Kansas

Jan 10, 2009 - 11:03 PM EAST LANSING, Michigan (Ticker) -- Michigan State took its final break from Big Ten Conference play Saturday and enjoyed a laugher against the defending national champions.

Kalin Lucas scored 13 of his 22 points in the first half as the 12th-ranked Spartans opened a big early lead and cruised to a 75-62 victory over Kansas.

Lucas hit three 3-pointers in the opening half, helping Michigan State build a 37-18 halftime cushion en route to its ninth straight victory.

"That was as good a first half of basketball that we've played in a while," said Spartans coach Tom Izzo, whose team returns to conference play Wednesday at Penn State. "I showed our team a little clip of a couple years ago when we played UConn here and tried to get the energy level that you need to play in big games."

Since a 98-63 loss to then-No. 1 North Carolina on December 3, the Spartans (13-2) have been winning behind a suffocating defense.

That defense was on display again Saturday, as the Spartans forced 12 first-half turnovers, converting them into 13 points. Michigan State also held Kansas to 36 percent (8-of-22) shooting in the opening half.

The Spartans, who posted their 27th straight home win, held the Jayhawks (11-4) to their fewest points in a half since February 28, 1999, when they also scored 18 in the second half at Iowa State.

"Actually, I thought we were really ready to play and played great the first five minutes," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I think we had 11 points the first time out."

The Jayhawks jumped out to an 11-6 lead on Cole Aldrich's basket with just over 15 minutes left, but Lucas' 3-pointer ignited a 19-1 burst for the Spartans.

"They went a long time without scoring a lot of points," Izzo added. "I credit that to good defense on our part and I thought my assistants did a good job on how we were going to cover those hundreds of ball screens that they do such a good job on."

During its winning streak, the Spartans are allowing 62 points per game while holding two of their last four opponents under 60 points. Kansas needed a late spurt to eclipse that mark Saturday.

The Jayhawks showed a brief spark early in the second half, scoring nine straight points to close within 39-27 on Sherron Collins' two free throws with 16:47 remaining.

But the Spartans quickly got their lead back up to 18 points as Travis Walton's basket made it 45-27 with 14:50 left. Michigan State maintained a double-digit advantage until Kansas got the deficit down to nine with just under three minutes to go.

Michigan State put away the contest by making 9-of-10 free throws in the final two minutes.

Collins scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half for Kansas (11-4), which had a three-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 0-3 all-time in East Lansing.

However, Collins also turned the ball over eight times.

"Sherron was put in a bad situation today because when we can't score, he tries to take it on himself to go score," Self said. "He turned it over too much, especially in the first half. I thought Sherron played very well in the second half not because he made shots, but because he was more under control and aggressive."

Aldrich chipped in with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Jayhawks, who open Big 12 Conference play Tuesday at home against Kansas State.

"They're young, they're going to be awfully good," Izzo said. "I think still this year, they're going to be really good in the future, and Collins and Aldrich are as good a twosome as we've faced and probably will face. Kansas is for real. I thought we played awfully well in the first half and not as well in the second."

Raymar Morgan scored 13 points and Walton added 11 for the Spartans. The junior forward Morgan just missed his fourth straight double-double, grabbing eight rebounds.