- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - After three consecutive victories, Michigan State has reached a break in its schedule, and the Spartans will have five days off before facing rival Michigan next weekend.

“This week we won’t work on shooting,” coach Tom Izzo said. “We’ll work on trying to guard somebody.”

The 12th-ranked Spartans tied a school record with 17 3-pointers in a 96-62 victory over Rutgers on Sunday night. Bryn Forbes scored all 18 of his points in the first half, and Denzel Valentine finished with 20.

Izzo complained a bit about his team’s defense after the game, but the final score didn’t reflect any major deficiencies. The Spartans (19-4, 6-4 Big Ten) have bounced back nicely from a three-game losing streak earlier in January that dropped them well off the pace in the conference title race. They had little trouble with Rutgers (6-16, 0-9) thanks to their torrid outside shooting.

Michigan State led 44-33 at halftime after shooting 9 of 16 from 3-point range. The Spartans finished 17 of 32 from beyond the arc, one game after going 16 of 26 from long distance in a blowout win over Northwestern.

Now Michigan State can focus on its biggest rival.

“We’re worried about the game at hand, but we’re also thinking about the future as well,” Forbes said. “We’ve got a big week coming up, and that’s really what that second half was for, to push us into next week.”

Mike Williams scored 18 points for Rutgers.

Michigan State led 6-3 when Eron Harris missed a jumper with 17:24 left in the first half. The Spartans didn’t attempt another field goal from inside the arc until Forbes missed a jumper with 8:02 remaining.

In between, Michigan State attempted 13 3-pointers and made eight, including six in a row at one point. Two free throws by Matt McQuaid were the only points for the Spartans in that stretch that didn’t come from beyond the arc. The Spartans led 29-13 after a 3 by Valentine.

The second half was more of the same. Michigan State went on a 20-0 run - including a 3 by McQuaid and three of them by Valentine - to lead 78-43.

“They’re just a good team,” Rutgers’ Corey Sanders said. “They’re coached well. They work hard. You know, they’re a top-10 basketball club. We are just happy to come out here and play and work hard.”

Sanders and Omari Grier scored 17 points each for Rutgers.

Michigan State also made 17 3-pointers against Purdue on Feb. 20, 2014.

OVERMATCHED

Rutgers F Deshawn Freeman (knee) and Cs Shaquille Doorson (foot) and Ibrahima Diallo (foot) are out for the season, leaving the Scarlet Knights facing a huge challenge when they take on a team like Michigan State.

“We concentrate on us a lot, because of where we are, undermanned and undersized,” coach Eddie Jordan said. “We are creating different themes and schemes to play to sort of reinvent ourselves almost on a weekly basis.”

SHARING THE BALL

The Spartans had 28 assists on 33 field goals. Valentine had six, while Harris and McQuaid had four each.

TIP-INS

Rutgers: This was the first time the Scarlet Knights had ever faced Michigan State in East Lansing.

Michigan State: The Spartans were without PG Tum Tum Nairn, who hasn’t played since Jan. 14 because of a foot injury. … Michigan State finished with a 33-2 edge in second-chance points.

UP NEXT

Rutgers: Hosts Illinois on Wednesday night.

Michigan State: Plays at Michigan on Saturday.

___

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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