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Shorthanded Michigan State loses to Alabama in opening matchup of Phil Knight Invitational, 81-70

Phil Knight Invitational - Alabama vs. Michigan State Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

The Michigan State men’s basketball team took on Alabama late on Thanksgiving night for an opening-round matchup at the Phil Knight Invitational (PK85) in Portland, Oregon. The Spartans lost by a final score of 81-70.

Michigan State was shorthanded in this contest as forward Malik Hall and guard Jaden Akins both missed the game due to respective foot injuries. The lack of bodies took a clear toll on MSU as the game went on.

It was a slow start offensively for the Spartans before things picked up. Center Mady Sissoko got the scoring going in the game after hitting a pair of free throws to put Michigan State up 2-0. However, MSU missed its first six field goal attempts before finally making a basket, which was a layup by guard Tyson Walker, making the score 8-4 in Alabama’s favor.

The teams would then trade baskets throughout the rest of the first half. At the under-12-minute media timeout, Alabama held a slim 15-14 lead after a driving layup from guard Jahvon Quinerly.

Michigan State took a 23-19 lead by the under-eight-minute timeout of the first half. The 9-4 run by the Spartans included a three-pointer from Walker.

The first half continued to go back-and-forth at a fast pace. In fact, the under-four-minute media timeout did not even take place until there was only 1:56 remaining before halftime. The Spartans were up by the slimmest of margins at that point, leading 34-33 after a jump shot from guard A.J. Hoggard.

Later, with time running out in the first half, Alabama freshman forward Brandon Miller drilled a deep buzzer-beater — much to Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo’s dismay — to put the Crimson Tide up 42-37 over the Spartans at halftime.

Walker led Michigan State with 11 points at the half, while Miller led Alabama with 17 points after the first 20 minutes of play.

While the first half was closely contested throughout, the second half was a different story.

Walker got the scoring going in the second frame with a pull-up jumper, but it was immediately answered with a three-pointer by Alabama guard Nimari Burnett. Michigan State guard/forward Pierre Brooks would then add a second-chance layup after grabbing an offensive rebound. The Crimson Tide led 45-41 with 18:14 remaining.

After that, it was Alabama. Miller scored five-straight points for the Crimson Tide, including a three-pointer. Free throws from Hoggard and Michigan State forward Joey Hauser cut Alabama’s lead down to five points at 50-45.

Alabama then went on a strong 17-4 run to open up its lead. Another three-pointer from Burnett put the Crimson Tide up 67-49 with 9:17 to play. Walker single-handedly tried to bring the Spartans back from there, scoring seven-straight points to cut Alabama’s lead to 67-56 with 7:20 remaining on the clock.

However, the Spartans’ momentum was halted on the Crimson Tide’s next possession. Michigan State freshman guard Tre Holloman was called for a foul when Alabama guard Mark Sears was attempting a three-point shot. Sears hit all three free throws to put Alabama up by 14 points at 70-56.

Brooks would then drill a three-pointer to cut into Alabama’s lead, but the Crimson Tide answered on the other end after a layup from forward Noah Gurley. At that point, Alabama led 72-59 with 5:37 remaining.

Hoggard responded with four-straight points, trimming Alabama’s lead to 72-63 with 4:02 remaining. However, Miller and center Charles Bediako answered with four-straight points for the Crimson Tide to put their team back up 76-63.

Hauser split a pair of free throws and Hoggard hit a three-pointer after an offensive rebound to pull the Spartans within nine points with 1:48 remaining.

Gurley then hit a pair of free throws for Alabama, while Hoggard immediately responded with another make from beyond the arc. The Crimson Tide led the Spartans 78-70 with 1:41 left on the game clock.

It was too little, too late for Michigan State, though. Gurley added two more free throws, while freshman forward Noah Clowney tacked on an additional free throw. Alabama defeated MSU by the final score of 81-70.

Walker led Michigan State with 21 points and four assists, while Hoggard scored a career-high 18 points. Those two were the only double-digit scorers for MSU. Brooks led the Spartans in rebounds with nine.

Miller led Alabama with 24 points and nine rebounds. Gurley scored 12 points, while Quinerly and Clowney chipped in 10 points each.

Michigan State shot 24-for-62 as a team (39 percent) and just 4-for-14 from three-point range (29 percent). Alabama went 28-for-63 overall (44 percent) and 8-for-23 from deep (35 percent). The Spartans out-rebounded the Crimson Tide 42-40 and turnovers were nearly even (MSU had 11 compared to Alabama’s 10). The Tide had 19 assists to the Spartans’ nine.

Michigan State falls to 3-2 on the young season, while Alabama moves to 5-0. Michigan State will play Oregon in the consolation bracket on Friday night (or technically Saturday morning in the Eastern Time Zone). It’s going to be a really late tipoff at midnight Eastern Time/9 p.m. Pacific Time.