Tyson Walker scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half to help build a huge lead and the struggling Spartans went on to stun previously unbeaten and sixth-ranked Baylor 88-64 Saturday.
"It was a step in the right direction," coach Tom Izzo said. "It shows you what we can be against a very, very good team."
The Spartans (5-5) had a breakout performance with a 30-point lead in the first half, and another 30-point cushion in the second half.
The Bears (9-1) had a shot-clock violation on the opening possession and 10 seconds later, Walker made a 3-pointer to set the tone for the game.
"We knew coming in, Michigan State’s a lot better than their record indicated," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "Coach Izzo is a Hall of Fame coach. They showed who they are, and who they’re going to be the rest of the year."
Michigan State’s A.J. Hoggard had 14 points, five assists and three steals while reserve guard Tre Holloman had 11 points. The Bears scored the first seven points of the second half to briefly put up a fight.
"That was one of our better performances in a long time," Izzo said.
Baylor started the game with six players averaging at least 10 points, but didn’t have anyone in double digits until RayJ Dennis made a shot with 7:10 left in the game. Dennis finished with 11 points and Yves Missi had 11 points.
"They kicked our butts in the first half. Period," Drew said. "The first 20 minutes definitely isn’t who we are."
The Spartans, who have gotten off to awful starts this season, led 22-5 midway through the first half and stayed in control the rest of the afternoon.
Michigan State played well enough to enjoy a home-court-like advantage at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, where fans haven’t had much to cheer about while watching the Pistons.
Baylor: Entering the game, the Bears ranked among college basketball’s best with 91.1 points per game by making 43.2% of 3-point attempts. The Big 12 team was held well below its average in part because it shot 31.6% beyond the 3-point arc and had 21 turnovers.
"They made us look really bad," Drew said.
Michigan State: Izzo and his underachieving team earned a desperately needed win after opening Big Ten play with two losses by leaning on defense, rebounding and making 63.3% of its shots with a high-pace offense.
"We aren’t giving up on ourselves," Izzo said. "We’re not dead yet."
The Bears will slip in the poll and the Spartans may get some votes after not receiving any this week.
Michigan State, off to its worst start in a decade, avoided an unwanted distinction.
Louisville’s 1986-87 team had the worst record after 10 games with just four wins among preseason top-five teams over the last four decades, according to Sportradar. The current Spartans and their 2003-04 team, which was No. 3 in the preseason, are just behind the Cardinals on the list.
Baylor: Faces No. 21 Duke on Wednesday night in New York.
Michigan State: Hosts Oakland on Monday night.