EAST LANSING, Michigan — Portland put the first points on the scoreboard against No. 1 Michigan State and took two more leads in the opening minutes.
The Pilots tied the game for a fourth time with 12:43 left before the Spartans pulled away to an 82-67 victory Monday night.
"This early in the season, I love that we're coming to a place that you know they're playing basketball a certain way and they're doing things right: selfish, tough and with passion," Portland coach Eric Reveno said. "We can take that away and know we can compete."
Keith Appling was much too much for the Pilots, matching a career high with 25 points and five 3-pointers. He also had seven assists and only one turnover for the Spartans (4-0) who had their second straight lackluster win.
Travis Trice's 3-pointer broke a 46-all tie in the second half he followed that up seconds later with a steal and layup. Gary Harris made a 3-pionter — the team's 11th from behind the arc — midway through the second half that put Michigan State ahead by 10 points for the first time.
"They shot a little better than we thought from 3," Portland forward Ryan Nicholas said. "But that was the one thing we were going to live with."
The Pilots (1-2) were balanced on offense with Kevin Bailey leading the way with 12 points and pesky on defense and the boards.
Michigan State was outrebounded in its previous two games, and edged Portland on the boards by just four.
"Our main focus was rebounding and stopping them in transition," Nicholas said.
Nicholas and Bobby Sharp had 11 points apiece for the Pilots, who had six players score at least seven points.
"We hung with them and we saw what the top of college basketball looked like," Reveno said. "We're trying to prepare for a tough West Coast Conference where we have to go on the road to Gonzaga and they're pretty darn tough."
The Spartans were sluggish for more than a half, playing several hours after being voted No. 1 in The Associated Press' college basketball poll for the first time since they were defending champions during the 2000-01 season. The only other season in which they were atop the poll was 1978-79 when the Earvin "Magic" Johnson-led team went on to claim the NCAA championship.
Michigan State made it to No. 1 because it beat then-top-ranked Kentucky last week, but needed to close Friday night's game strong to avoid getting upset at home by Columbia and were not impressive against Portland.
Adreian Payne scored 19 points and Harris had 15 for the Spartans.
Appling matched a career high with five 3-pointers, making each of his attempts from beyond the arc. Payne and Harris both made three 3-pointers, helping the Spartans connect on 13 3s for the first time since 2008.
Portland will return home to play Idaho at home on Thursday night.
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