EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Keith Appling matched a career high with 25 points to help No. 1 Michigan State pull away to beat Portland 82-67 on Monday night in its first game as a top-ranked team in 13 years.
The Spartans (4-0) struggled in the first half, leading by four points after seven lead changes and three ties.
Travis Trice's 3-pointer broke a tie with 12:26 left and he followed that up seconds later with a steal and layup. Gary Harris made a 3-pionter — the team's 11th from behind the arc — midway through the second half that put Michigan State ahead by 10 points for the first time.
The Pilots (1-2) were balanced on offense with Kevin Bailey leading the way with 12 points and pesky on defense and the boards.
The Spartans were sluggish for more than a half, playing several hours after being voted No. 1 in The Associated Press' college basketball poll for the first time since they were defending champions during the 2000-01 season. The only other season in which they were atop the poll was 1978-79 when the Earvin "Magic" Johnson-led team went on to claim the NCAA championship.
Michigan State made it to No. 1 because it beat then-top-ranked Kentucky last week, but it has had two lackluster wins since the marquee victory. The Spartans needed to close Friday night's game strong to avoid getting upset at home by Columbia and were not impressive against Portland.
Adreian Payne scored 19 points and Harris had 15 for the Spartans.
Appling matched a career high with five 3-pointers, making each of his attempts from beyond the arc. Payne and Harris both made three 3-pointers, helping the Spartans connect on 13 3s for the first time since 2008.
The Pilots had six players score at least seven points. Ryan Nicholas and Bobby Sharp had 11 points apiece.
Michigan State was outrebounded in its previous two games, and edged Portland on the boards by just four.
After playing the Pilots of West Coast Conference, Michigan State will face Virginia Tech on Friday night in Brooklyn, N.Y. and then Oklahoma or Seton Hall the following night. The Spartans' next marquee game will be Dec. 4 at home against No. 24 North Carolina.
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