Michigan State overwhelmed Penn State with three runs in the first half to roll to a 78-51 win in the second round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday.
The No. 5-seed Spartans used an early 11-0 run to take the lead for good, then took a 17-point lead after a 12-0 stretch and scored the final nine points of the first half to build an 18-point advantage.
The No. 13-seed Nittany Lions didn’t have an answer for Michigan State and shot 24.2 percent in the first 20 minutes.
“I knew those first eight to 12 minutes were going to be critical for us and our energy and to see the ball go in the basket,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers told reporters at the postgame press conference. “We didn’t see the ball go in the basket the first half.”
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Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr each scored 16 points to lead the Nittany Lions (15-18), who shot 29.1 percent from the field for the game.
Nick Ward and Miles Bridges each finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for Michigan State (19-13). Joshua Langford finished with 13 points.
Michigan State will face No. 4-seed Minnesota in the quarterfinals at about 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Verizon Center.
Carr said fatigue wasn’t a factor one day after the team’s first-round overtime win against Nebraska.
“We just kind of got outworked, I would say,” Carr said. “They just played harder than us. They sprinted the floor extremely hard on both ends, and they just outplayed us at the end of the day.”
Ward scored six points during Michigan State’s 11-0 run at the start of the game. The Spartans’ big man gave the Spartans a 14-5 lead with 13:10 left in the first half after scoring inside on back-to-back possessions.
Ward scored nine points to contribute to Michigan State’s 26-12 advantage in the paint in the first half. The Spartans also outscored Penn State 14-0 on fast-break points and finished 5 for 10 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes.
Michigan State used a combination of breakaway opportunities and long-range shots to fuel its next quick run — a 12-0 spurt —over the span of two minutes.
The lead ballooned to 30-13 with 7:56 left before the break after that run, which saw the Spartans go 5 for 5 from the field, while the Nittany Lions were 0 for 5.
The Nittany Lions never found their rhythm offensively as Carr and Stevens were the lone players to score in double figures.
“We didn’t have a great balance, and against a team like Michigan State, you need balance,” Chambers said. “You absolutely need balance.”