AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- Paul Davis helped add to Trent Johnson's rough start as Stanford coach.
Davis scored 20 points as 16th-ranked Michigan State pulled away for a 78-53 victory over Stanford, which has lost three straight games for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
Last season, the Cardinal won their first 26 games and finished with a 30-2 record overall. But that was under coach Mike Montgomery, who jumped to the NBA.
A former Stanford assistant and the coach at Nevada the past five seasons, Johnson has watched the Cardinal (2-4) struggle. They have been beaten by an average of 16.7 points during their skid and matched their most lopsided loss since a 103-78 setback to Southern California in the 2002 Pac-10 Conference tournament in this one.
"I don't know how much of a comeback we tried to make," Johnson said. "In the second half, their depth broke us down and their athletic ability allowed them to make plays. No question it had a lot to do with them, but it had a lot to do with our inability to execute and take our time."
"They are not the team of last year, but when you see how hard they played, and the way they ran their offense, I think they are going to be a very good team by the end of the year," Michigan State guard Chris Hill said.
Davis had his way inside, making 7-of-12 shots. He scored 11 points in the opening 20 minutes when the Spartans (5-2) used a 13-5 run to close the half for a 31-22 lead.
"We are moving along step by step," Davis said. "We have to win two more games before Christmas and go on to the Big Ten from there."
Maurice Ager added 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in a 14-7 run to open the second half that allowed the Spartans to take control.
"We did a lot of good things," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We got the ball inside. We wanted to get the ball inside and outside."
Matt Haryasz scored 12 points to pace Stanford, which shot just 32 percent (17-of-53).
The Cardinal actually got off to a good start, taking advantage of some poor shooting by the Spartans to build a 13-6 lead more than eight minutes into the contest. Michigan State missed 13 of its first 15 shots.
But Davis made jumper to trigger a 10-0 run that gave the Spartans the lead for good.
Davis' opened the second half with a jumper to give the Spartans a double-digit lead and Agers' second 3-pointer with 13 1/2 minutes remaining pushed the advantage to 45-29. Shannon Brown, who scored 10 points, had a spectacular one-handed dunk in the surge to start the second half.
"We came out kind of flat in the first half," Michigan State guard Kevin Torbert said. "In the second half, we picked it up defensively and got out on the break and made some plays. We got a big-time momentum swing and made a run that kept us going the rest of the game."
Alan Anderson added 11 points for Michigan State, which led by as many as 29 points in the final minutes.