The Michigan State Spartans faced off against the No. 22 Connecticut Huskies in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving day, and walked away with a 64-60 victory. The Spartans will go on to play the winner of the Virginia Commonwealth versus Baylor (No. 6) contest on Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern Time in the Battle 4 Atlantis final.
Michigan State jumped out to an early 6-0 lead by the first media timeout, and grew its lead to seven points at 17-10 by the second media timeout. The Spartans continued the strong start at the under-eight-minute timeout, as the lead was at 10 points at the 7:12 mark in the first half, thanks to five quick points — including a three-pointer — by freshman Pierre Brooks II.
MSU’s lead grew to 14 points with 3:35 to play in the first half, as the score was then 32-18 in the Spartans’ favor. UConn would score the final six points of the half, however, and Michigan State lead 32-24 at halftime.
Gabe Brown led the Spartans at halftime with 11 points and six rebounds, while Joey Hauser had six points — from two three-point baskets — and four rebounds. Michigan State shot 38.9 percent from the floor, and 57.1 percent from the three-point line. UConn was at just 25.8 percent from the field, and made just one of its nine attempts from behind the arc (11.1 percent).
Michigan State severely cut down on turnovers in the first half — after giving the ball away 20 times in a victory against Loyola Chicago on Thursday — with just four. The Spartans also out-rebounded the Huskies in the first half by a tally of 25-21, including grabbing eight offensive boards to Connecticut’s seven.
The second half was more competitive, as UConn came storming back. By the first media timeout, the Huskies had gone on a 15-9 run and Michigan State’s lead was down to just two points at 41-39 with 15:30 to play.
The game would remain tight throughout the second half with the teams trading baskets. UConn grabbed its first lead of the game at 49-48 with 7:48 to play, off of a three-pointer from guard R.J. Cole.
The Huskies would extend the lead to 55-48 with 4:44 left to play, after a basket from guard Tyrese Martin. At the next media timeout, the score was 57-48 with 3:07 to play.
The Spartans would fight back, though. A pair of free throws and a layup (which UConn was called for goal-tending on) by Julius Marble cut the Huskies lead to two points, at 57-55. However, UConn would score three more points, followed by two free throws from Marble. The score was then at 60-57 in UConn’s favor.
Marble would score again on a transition play, with a brilliant pass from AJ Hoggard, and had scored eight-straight points for the Spartans at that point. He was also fouled on the play, but couldn’t convert on the and-one call. UConn led 60-59 with less than one minute to play, but failed to score on its next possession.
Next, Hoggard drove to the basket and drew a foul call to shoot two free throws. He made both shots to give Michigan State a 61-60 lead with just 30 seconds to play. The Huskies could not get any points on the next possession, and Malik Hall hit a pair of clutch free throws to give MSU a three-point lead, 63-60, with 17 seconds to play.
Connecticut once again couldn’t score, due to a clutch defensive possession by Michigan State. Tyson Walker was fouled and hit one of two free throws to ice the game for the Spartans, and the score went final at 64-60 in MSU’s favor.
Brown led the way for the Spartans with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Marble scored 15 points. Adama Sanogo led UConn with 18 points and 10 boards. Both teams shot 36 percent from the floor, but Michigan State shot 46 percent from three-point range, while UConn shot a miserable 13 percent from deep.
Michigan State finished with 12 turnovers to UConn’s nine, and out-rebounded the Huskies 48-42.
Hall and Max Christie struggled in this one. Hall’s first points of the game didn’t come until the late free throws, and he missed all of his five sots from the field — after not missing a shot on Thursday and scoring a career-high 24 points. Christie, the true freshman guard, finished with just two points, making one shot on nine attempts. He has now made just two baskets on 15 attempts through two games in the Bahamas.
Michigan State improves to 5-1 on the season, and has won five-straight games. Meanwhile, Connecticut suffered its first loss of the season and is also now at 5-1.