Rutgers Montez Mathis tries to block Michigan State Nick Ward shot (Photo 4.0 Sports)

By:|Marvin Chambers:|4.0 Sports Media

The RAC-Rutgers (5-3) played Michigan State (6-2) in the Big Ten Conference opener for both schools. For MSU it will be a five-game stretch away from home in a two-week span.

It is only the eighth time the two universities in program history. MSU lead the head-to-head series, 8-0 now, and have won all seven meetings since Rutgers joined the Big Ten Conference. Under coach Steve Pikiell, the Scarlet Knights have had it closest two margins in the series last season.

MSU guard Cassius Winston scored 22 points and six assists, and Ward chipped in 20 points in 20 minutes of action, as Michigan State rallied from an eight-point first-half deficit for a 78-67 victory over Rutgers at the Rac in front of a crowd of 8,000.

In the first half, RU shot 37.8% (14-37) from the field and 37.5% (6-16) beyond the arc. Despite their shooting woes and Geo Baker sitting on the bench with two fouls the Scarlet Knights were only down by two 39-37 at the break.

“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. It wasn’t pretty.” MSU coach Tom Izzo said.

In the second half coach Izzo made sure 6’5 Joshua Langford guarded Geo Baker and that adjustment for MSU proved to be a great move. Baker simply couldn’t shoot over the length of junior guard Langford and it frustrated the Rutgers offense. RU made three of their first 15 shots in the second half.

“I felt if you stop Baker, you kind of shut down the rest of their team.” said MSU Joshua Langford said.

Even with the last little run the Scarlet Knight cut the deficit to 59-52, they didn’t get closer than six afterward, as MSU was able to coast in the final minutes.

Rutgers turnovers in the second half led to easy transition buckets for the Spartans and shoddy defense in the paint were very costly for the Scarlet Knights.

“I tell him every day, how good he is. I knew there was going to be a game like this, where I was going to get in foul trouble and he would have to make plays. I’m happy for him, and in the long run, I know it’s going to help us a lot because he needs that confidence.” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said.