Too many turnovers, not nearly enough defensive stops and way too much Draymond Green.
Michigan State, behind 54-percent shooting and Green’s career-high 34 points, handled Gonzaga 74-67 in front of 6,000 Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center, sending the Bulldogs to their second straight men’s basketball loss against a Big Ten Conference foe.
The Spartans (8-2) have won eight straight and, as Illinois did last week after an 82-75 win over GU, will probably crack the rankings. No. 23 Gonzaga (5-2) will likely exit the Top 25.
Michigan State outplayed Gonzaga at both ends of the floor. The Spartans shut down Elias Harris (six points on 2-of-11 field goals) and Kevin Pangos (seven points on 3-of-8 shooting) and did a solid job on center Robert Sacre (16 points).
David Stockton made four 3-pointers and had a career-best 19 points and freshman Gary Bell Jr. added 13 in his first start, but the Bulldogs committed 13 first-half turnovers and rarely seemed to score on consecutive possessions.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Green took care of the offensive end, draining 11 of 13 shots, 4 of 5 3-pointers (he came in shooting 26.7 percent behind the arc) and 8 of 9 free throws.
“He’s got a big body and he knows how to position himself,” said Mike Hart, one of several GU defenders unable to slow Green. “He was making everything he put up. We were trying to make everything difficult for him, but he got some easy touches.”
Green was more satisfied with his defensive effort on Harris than eclipsing his previous career-high of 26 points, set last season against Wisconsin.
“I have to give credit to (teammate) Alex Gauna,” Green said. “He played Harris to a ‘T’ in practice and he just killed me, but it really got me ready to play him.”
Green was the only Spartan in double figures, but the Spartans got 17 combined points from posts Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, and guard Keith Appling chipped in eight points and seven assists.
“We did a heck of a job on two of their three studs, Harris and Pangos, and Draymond Green was a man,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said. “There was a maturity, which we all know (Green) has been immature over his years, but every year he’s made better strides.”
Bell Jr. scored eight points early as Gonzaga led 12-7. The Bulldogs then committed five turnovers in six possessions, three attempting to feed the ball inside. GU still led 23-20 after Bell Jr.’s transition layup, but Michigan State responded with an 11-1 run.
“We were trying to get foul pressure on them,” Bell Jr. said. “We just tried to force it inside, but we’re going to learn from it.”
The Spartans used a 14-3 spurt, fueled by Green’s 10 points, to take a 51-41 lead. Consecutive baskets by Nix extended MSU’s lead to 14 before Stockton sparked a late comeback. He scored eight straight points as GU closed within six, but Appling’s five late free throws helped preserve MSU’s win.
After Green picked up his third foul 90 seconds into the second half, Gonzaga went to Harris several times.
“We tried to get his fourth and could never get it,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “It came to a point where we weren’t being very efficient on the offensive end and we had to look at something else. That shows you how smart of a player Green is.”
Sacre finished with 16 hard-earned points as MSU effectively limited his post touches. Gonzaga shot 43.2 percent and hit 7 of 14 3s, but points didn’t come easily.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to generate consecutive baskets on them,” Few said. “I think this is one of (Izzo’s) better defensive teams that we’ve played.”