EAST LANSING, Michigan (Ticker) -- Chris Hill got Michigan State back to playing its expected level of basketball.
Hill nailed five 3-pointers and scored 22 points as the 21st-ranked Spartans avoided a third straight loss with an 82-75 victory over No. 23 Virginia in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Michigan State (3-2) combined for 37 turnovers in a pair of losses at the Great Alaska Shootout. The Spartans played much better on Wednesday, thanks to Hill's perimeter work and the play of Aloysius Anagonye and freshman Paul Davis inside on Virginia star forward Travis Watson.
"All in all I thought that was a step in the right direction for us," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "As you can see, we have a long way to go, but a big step because I think we played harder. I think we moved the ball a little bit better."
"We have to do a better job when the game is physical and guys are banging you, cracking you," Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. "You have got to be able to play that way. It was Big Ten, halfcourt, slug you, crack you. We weren't ready, we didn't respond. We got frustrated and a little discouraged and that hurt us."
Hill scored eight straight points and Anagonye had a layup to cap a 17-0 run that gave Michigan State a 33-19 lead with just under five minutes left before halftime. The Spartans held a 36-25 halftime advantage.
"Early on we had a couple guys really give us a spark and some energy early and it carried over and it turned into points and it was kind of a snowball effect," Hill said. "That's what we have to do more of, and tonight we took advantage of it."
Hill's 3-pointer gave Michigan State its largest lead at 59-41 midway through the second half before Virginia (3-2) staged a rally with nine straight points. Watson had back-to-back layups to cut the deficit to 59-50 with 7:15 to go.
The Spartans went to Hill on their next two possessions and he drilled a pair of 3-pointers around a layup by Virginia center Nick Vander Laan for a 65-52 cushion. The lead stayed in double figures until the final minute.
The final two minutes featured constant fouling by Virginia but Michigan State drained 12-of-14 free throws down the stretch.
Watson was in foul trouble for most of the night and managed just 10 points and six rebounds. Michigan State also limited Virginia reserve forward Elton Brown to two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Travis Watson getting three fouls (early) was a big blow for us," Gillen said. "He has to stay out of foul trouble. The first one was kind of ticky-tack. We need him to make better decisions so he doesn't get into foul trouble."
The Spartans held a 31-28 edge on the glass as Anagonye grabbed nine boards. Anagonye was the linchpin on defense, repeatedly pushing Watson away from the lane on his post-up attempts.
"He's a preseason All-American," Anagonye said. "You have to play your tail off or you have to get him out of the game. The only way to get him out of the game is to get him in foul trouble."
Alan Anderson scored 15 points and Kelvin Torbert added 11 for Michigan State, which shot 51 percent (26-of-51) and came up with 11 steals. Hill made 7-of-9 shots and five 3-pointers.
"You have to look at the game and take it as a big positive," Spartans forward Adam Ballinger said. "We played the way we can and the way we know we can win. We are not taking this game bigger than it was, but we're definitely taking it as a positive thing."
The Cavaliers were forced to resort to a perimeter game and reserve Todd Billet led the way with 28 points and six 3-pointers. Devin Smith added 24 points and drilled four shots from beyond the arc.
However, Smith had six of Virginia's 19 turnovers and point guard Keith Jenifer added four. Jenifer fouled out with just two points and five assists.
The game was a rematch of last season's meeting at the Richmond Coliseum that was canceled due to slippery floor conditions.