Dec 15, 2001
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The streak lives.
It started at Michigan State 45 months ago with players such as Morris Peterson, and it continued Saturday with some Spartans few have heard of.
Adam Ballinger scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the 23rd-ranked Spartans beat No. 6 Arizona 74-60 to extend the nation's longest home winning streak to 50 games.
"They realized that this was their chance to make a mark for themselves," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "This is the first mark they get to make. It's not the biggest thing in the world, it's not going to make national news, but it's important to our program and it's important those players."
The Spartans (6-3) got off to a good start, never trailed and held off the Wildcats (5-2) after they began the second half with a 10-0 run.
When some key Michigan State players were in foul trouble with about 10 minutes left, two freshmen and a walk-on were able to do enough to maintain the lead.
The 50 straight wins at the Breslin Center ties a Big Ten record held by Ohio State (1959-63) and Indiana (1991-95). Just seven of Michigan State's 50 wins at home have been by less than 10 points.
"This is a great win for this young team," Ballinger said. "Some guys won't realize what 50 wins means, but I was here when it started during my redshirt year. A lot of guys put a lot of hard work into this and we didn't want to let them down."
Marcus Taylor had 19 points, six assists and six rebounds while helping the defensive effort against Jason Gardner, who scored 17 points on 3-of-14 shooting. Gardner entered the game averaging 24.2 points.
"We shut down the guy we needed to," Taylor said.
"I'm disgusted," Anderson said. "We came out like turtles, mentally weak and unprepared. They ran past us like hares and were just tougher than us."
The teams played for the third straight season, but the only things similar were their uniforms and their need to replace stars.
Gardner and Michigan State's Aloysius Anagonye were the only returning starters from last year's meeting in the Final Four, which Arizona won to end the Spartans' hopes for repeating as national champions.
The Wildcats saw three players - Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas and Michael Wright - enter the NBA draft as underclassmen and Loren Woods leave as a senior.
The Spartans lost two players early - Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph - to the NBA and five seniors, including Andre Hutson and Charlie Bell.
Michigan State has won four straight Big Ten titles and advanced to the Final Four three consecutive seasons because of its defense and rebounding.
The Spartans outrebounded Arizona 46-36 and held it to 30.2 percent shooting.
"We realize that everything we have here is because of the guys from the past," Taylor said. "We knew they were going to watch us play, so we wanted to make them proud."
Michigan State's suffocating defense held Arizona to 17.9 percent shooting in the first half and helped it take a 13-point lead midway through the first half and a 38-22 halftime lead. Gardner was 0-for-7 in the first half.
"Jason is really a key, key guy for us," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "If he's not knocking down shots, like in the first half, we're going to have problems. I think he sometimes feels like he has to do too much."
Arizona began the second half with the 10-0 run and later, a layup by Walton pulled it within five with just under 12 minutes to play. Michigan State responded with an 11-2 run to take a 54-42 lead and control of the game for good.
Michigan State's fans, especially the student section, "The Izzone," began to make their presence felt by Arizona when they waited outside the arena to shout at the team bus more than an hour before the game.
Then they created chaos early and often for the Wildcats during the game with their cheers and jeers.
"That's an atmosphere that is second to none," Izzo said. "That's an atmosphere that elite programs have.
"That atmosphere got us a win, don't kid yourself."