Michigan State Basketball May Have Its First Decisive Moment of the Season in Victory Over UConn

For the second day in a row, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo thanked some late-game heroes who helped the Spartans overcome their own doubts.

Julius Marble II and AJ Hoggard delivered crucial pieces as MSU needed another late rally on Thursday, this time against No. 21 Connecticut. And the Spartans managed to ride the waves again to get to Friday’s Battle 4 Atlantis Championship game.

Marble scored eight straight runs in the final 3:07 after MSU trailed seven points, with Hoggard setting him up twice and reaching the free throw line himself to give the Spartans the lead for good with 30.3 seconds left. Malik Hall and Tyson Walker capped off the comeback with three more free throws in the closing seconds to give MSU a 64-60 win.

“The last 30 seconds are decisive moments in every season, and it is quite early,” Izzo told Zoom after the game. “But when you went through a year like last year, we just beat a great team. … I felt like we played really well too, so I give us credit in a lot of ways.”

MSU (5-1) will face Virginia Commonwealth of Baylor at 11 a.m. Friday (ESPN) at Paradise Island resort in Nassau, Bahamas.

Gabe Brown led the Spartans with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Marble finished with a career-high 15 points – 13 of those after halftime – on 5 of 7 shots to go with four rebounds.

Hall went scoreless and missed all five shots he took against the Huskies, but hit both free throws for his only two points with 17.2 seconds left. MSU scored the last nine points in the last 1:41.

“I think I think it’s a testament to our team and that we just never give up, really do,” said Hall, who made all nine shots on Wednesday to score a career-high 24 against Loyola Chicago. “It’s something that the coach has hammered on us from the start, just to make the winning plays. … I think towards the end of the game we just made those winning moves and we got what we needed to do. “

The Spartans reduced their turnovers and applied a lot of intensity in the first half, scoring the first six points and jumping out to a quick 14-point lead against a tired Huskies squad coming off a 115-109 double win at number 22. Maroon on Wednesday.

But UConn (5-1) used runs of 12-3 early halftime to get close and a 13-2 run after the midpoint to seemingly seize control. Tyrese Martin’s breakaway faded after MSU’s final game, when Walker was stripped naked by RJ Cole, giving UConn a 55-48 lead with 4:42 remaining.

That would be the last turnover of the Spartans. Brown responded with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:52 to go that ended a 5-minute-plus MSU scoring drought. And then Marble took over.

He Marble scored a couple of free throws and got a layup from a dribble drive, wraparound pass from Hoggard with 2:32 to play, then pulled MSU within a point on a transition layup over Sanogo with 1:07 left – again from a Hoggard rebound and passed the runout – defending UConn’s Adama Sanogo and forcing him to a miss with 42 seconds left.

MSU Launch Center Marcus Bingham Jr. finished with seven points and seven rebounds, but was only 3 of 9 and had two turnovers and no blocks. The 6-9, 240-pound Sanogo led UConn with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

“I thought we were getting tired. Marky was getting a little tired,’ Izzo said. “But if you have to carry that burden that he has to guard, there’s a reason to get tired.”

After Marble’s run brought the Spartans within a run, 60-59, Hoggard drove into the ensuing possession after an MSU timeout, and Cole was called for a dubious foul that appeared to be all ball on replay. Hoggard hit both free throws, then Hall on the other side got a steal on Martin and hit his shots after making a mistake to help seal the game.

UConn coach Danny Hurley suffered a stroke on the field with the umpires, but calmly explained what he saw next.

“That is a difficult decision. I mean, I looked at it—that’s a bouncy ball,” Hurley said. “We lost because we made a lot of mistakes and Michigan State didn’t, they made the plays. But yeah, I don’t understand what happened there.”

Hoggard and Walker combined for 11 points, eight assists and just three turnovers to earn their coaches credit after the point guard tandem had nine of MSU’s 20 giveaways against Loyola.

“I have to give credit to both of our point guards. I’ve been riding them like Seattle Slew for the past few weeks,” Izzo said. “And at the same time, I think those guys really showed up today and guarded pretty well.”

MSU held UConn scoreless in the final 1:41, and the Spartans overcame eight early turnovers in the second half – all of which came before the final 4:48 recovery run. The Spartans also kept the Huskies 2-for-16 from a 3-point range.

“Once we get to the tournament, it will be exactly the same way,” said Brown. “In my freshman year (the 2019 Final Four run), I was in games like that, it came down to the wire – Duke, Texas Tech, that sort of thing. So this was a game that we were preparing for, and it has helped us.”

MSU came out aggressively against the Huskies. The Spartans jumped out to a 6-0 lead, just as they did in their 63-61 win over Loyola Chicago in their tournament opener. This time, however, Izzo’s team kept the energy by avoiding turnover and keeping Brown out of trouble.

The senior captain hit two of MSU’s first three shots, scoring 11 points in the first half. Freshman Pierre Brooks added five surprise runs from the bench in his first important play to put the Spartans at 32-18 and force Hurley to call a timeout with 3:32 left in the half. The Huskies scored six in a row, including four at the free-throw line, to narrow MSU’s lead to 32-24 at halftime, despite the Spartans turning the ball just four times after giving it up 14 times for the game. break against Loyola.

Then MSU turned it around five times early in the second half when UConn put in a 12-3 run that tied the game with 41, all with 15:16 left on a Martin block from a Brown jumper and the subsequent escape dunk.

The Spartans held onto the Huskies to just 25.8% of shots in the first half, but 45% in the second. UConn made only 2 of his last 12 attempts in the final 4:12 but after a second fastbreak slam from Martin, who finished with 16 points and 12 boards.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Learn more about the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State Basketball’s Victory Over UConn Could Be a Decisive Moment

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