EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas was in midseason form with drives to the basket, pull-up jumpers and crisp passes.
Looks like the surgery Lucas had to repair his ruptured left Achilles’ tendon was a success.
Lucas scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half, helping the second-ranked Spartans open the season with a 96-66 victory over Eastern Michigan on Friday night in a game he was motivated to play.
“I had to be able to play the first game,” he said.
Lucas averaged 19 points in two preseason games and was sharp against the Eagles, making five assists without a turnover in the first half in his first game that counted since he got hurt in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Lucas has been on the court for about 1 1/2 months after being off it for about six months.
“Considering the severity of his injury, I thought he did an incredible job,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said.
Lucas had plenty of help.
Durrell Summers had 17 points, freshman Keith Appling scored 14, Draymond Green had 12 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. Freshmen Adreian Payne and Austin Thornton both added 10 points.
Brandon Bowdry had a career-high 32 points and matched a personal best with 15 rebounds for the Eagles.
“It’s a team game,” Eastern Michigan coach Charles Ramsey said. “I applaud his effort—32 and 15—that’s what he’s capable of, but we need to get him more help.”
Eastern Michigan didn’t have a double-digit scorer to join Bowdry until late in the game. Antonio Green finished with 12 points. Bowdry made just 10 of 28 shots for a team that connected on fewer than 32 percent of its attempts.
The Spartans easily beat Eastern Michigan, but their schedule is about to get tougher. They host South Carolina on Tuesday night, might play No. 11 Kentucky in the Maui Invitational, travel to face top-ranked Duke and play No. 10 Syracuse and Texas.
“I don’t feel comfortable for where we are and where we need to be” Izzo said.
Michigan State is expected to be among the nation’s best, returning seven of the top nine scorers from last season’s team that advanced to a second straight Final Four—and sixth in 12 years—and repeated as Big Ten champions.
Its success will largely be tied to health because a handful of players are recovering from surgeries.
“If (Lucas) stays healthy, they’re going to be very good,” Ramsey said.
Lucas made a driving layup to put the Spartans ahead 19-8 and they led by as much as 22 in the first half that ended with them ahead 49-33. They built and maintained a 20-plus point cushion for much of the second half, experimenting with a nine-man rotation that created mismatches all over the court.
Michigan State, though, couldn’t stop Bowdry inside or on the perimeter.
The 6-foot-6 Bowdry exposed a weakness created when Raymar Morgan departed after his senior season and Chris Allen was dismissed and transferred to Iowa State. The Spartans simply don’t appear to have an answer for quick and talented small forwards.
“On the flip side, we had three or four guys we couldn’t guard either,” Ramsey said.
Eastern Michigan, coming off its best season in a dozen years, needed a few more players like Bowdry to compete with a team tough to beat anywhere— especially at the Breslin Center.
The Spartans have won 48 straight games against nonconference opponents in East Lansing, dating to a 2003 loss to Duke, and is 39-0 in November at home under Izzo.
Michigan State’s Korie Lucious was suspended by coach Tom Izzo for the opener after pleading guilty in September to misdemeanor reckless driving.