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Henry scores 20, Spartans beat No. 15 Rutgers, 68-45

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo yells from the sideline during the first half of a game against Rutgers, Tuesday in East Lansing. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

EAST LANSING– Aaron Henry had 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, helping No. 23 Michigan State pull away to beat No. 15 Rutgers 68-45 on Tuesday night.

“He did the job for us, which the best players are supposed to do,” coach Tom Izzo said. “What I liked about him is, he was efficient. Aaron saved us a little bit.”

The Spartans (8-3, 2-3 Big Ten) had a 17-point scoring edge in the second half to win a second straight game after opening conference play with three straight losses.

The Scarlet Knights (7-3, 3-3) made just 31% of their shots. They started 0 of 7 at the foul line and finished making just 3 of 12 free throws.

“It doesn’t help that we can’t make a free throw to break some of these runs,” coach Steve Pikiell said.

Ron Harper Jr. had 13 points and Jacob Young scored 11 for Rutgers.

“Coach Izzo had them ready,” Pikiell said. “I didn’t have our guys ready. We have to play better on the road in a league like this.”

Henry helped Michigan State, who host Purdue in Friday night, overcome a season-high 18 turnovers, contributing four giveaways himself. He also made desperately needed shots, connecting on 8 of 13 from the field while the rest of the team struggled to score until a late offensive surge.

Reserve Rocket Watts and Joshua Langford each scored 11 points for the Spartans, who led by just six points at halftime.

Henry was the only Michigan State player with more than three points in the first half, but making stops at the other end the entire game made the difference.

“This gives us a barometer of where we can be defensively,” Izzo said. “We can show our guys, this is what happens when you guard. They shot 30% and they got some easy shots off our turnovers so that makes our half-court defense even more impressive.”

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Henry led the way as coach Tom Izzo needs him to for a second straight game. He had a career-high 27 points when the Spartans ended a three-game losing streak with an 84-77 victory over Nebraska on Saturday night.

“Aaron Henry is playing about as well, other than turnovers, that I could ask for in the last two games,” Izzo said.

BOARD BATTLE

Michigan State outrebounded Rutgers 45-25.

“They beat us on the backboards, and beat us in every area,” Pikiell said. “It’s just disappointing.”

The lopsided result was combination of the Spartans’ defense leading to a lot of opportunities on the boards.

“They were tough and obviously, (we) missed a ton of shots,” Pikiell said.

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