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November 23, 2010

Spartans sputter past Chaminade, UConn up next

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Defense and rebounding have been the building blocks in Michigan State's rise as a basketball power in the last 10 years. But both were faulty in Michigan State's uncomfortable 82-74 victory over Chaminade in the first round of the Maui Invitational, Monday night.

Kalin Lucas had a career-high 28 points, and carried the Spartans at times, and Korie Lucious played big off the bench with 13 as No. 2 Michigan State prevented another Chaminade miracle.

"I didn't think we did any of the things that we do," said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. "I mean defensively, we didn't step up on things, we didn't rebound the ball very well. Offensively, we played okay. Okay. We missed some opportunities but we played okay offensively. Defensively, we are just not playing very well. It was defense, the way we handle ball screens, and it was the rebounding."

Chaminade (3-1) is best known for its 1982 win over top-ranked Virginia, still one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history.

Fearless against one of the nation's pre-eminent programs, the Silverswords had another upset in their sites, keeping the Spartans (3-0) on the ropes well into the second half.

Lucas answered Chaminade runs and kept the Spartans warm when many other aspects were sputtering.
Comp's Takes
  • Key Stat: Chaminade out-rebounded Michigan State, which led the nation in rebounding margin last year, 35-30. Chaminade was visibly more hungry for range rebounds and loose balls than the Spartans on many occasions.

  • MSU was a hot 8-of-14 from 3-point range, and a respectable 14-of-19 from the foul line, or else the Spartans might have lost this game. If MSU had shot free throws as poorly as they did last week against South Carolina, Chaminade would have a third giant killing in school history, to lead off SportsCenter tonight.

  • Chaminade purposefully left Delvon Roe unguarded on one occasion and Roe badly missed a medium-range jump shot from the right wing. Tennessee did the same to Roe in the NCAA Regional finals last year. They won't be the last to do it. Roe can't shoot, and this will bog down MSU's offense at times during plays that call for the power forward to pop out. This problem will not go away all season.

  • MSU's transition game looked the best it has all season, with Keith Appling a natural on the wing. Green joins Kevin Love and Luke Walton as one of the best frontcourt passers college basketball has seen in the past five to 10 years. Draymond Green looked like a Magic Johnson understudy when he rebounded, led a break in the second half, went airborne to fake a pass to a trailer and instead dump it down low to a teammate for a lay-up. (But MSU was immediately beaten the other way for a counterbreak lay-up).

  • Garrick Sherman's nice touch around the rim is becoming more and more noticeable. But he had a little trouble defending things on the perimeter against a team with a good shooter at the four and specializes in quick-hitting, catch-and-shoot opportunities for the four. He'll be better against teams that provide more film to study. This was a good learning exercise for him.

  • How often have we seen Korie Lucious get hot during games when so many other aspects are cold? He has an uncanny knack of shooting well when the Spartans are otherwise experiencing a bad night.

  • We saw examples of the new-and-improved, "controlled" version of Kalin Lucas, not that he was every out of control earlier in his career. But he goes through the gears smoother than ever right now, although he still hasn't recovered his highest-RPM stuff. That will come later. For now, his ability to get to the rim or to medium range for a good look saved the Spartans on this night, as he was 11-of-20 from the floor, on 20 good shots. He was just 1-of-4 from 3-point range, which suggests he's capable of going for 30 some day soon, when his shot is really on.

  • MSU's biggest problem on this night was ballscreen defense. Chaminade mixed nice talent with good actions and happened to enjoy an "on" night, offensively. MSU is not a pressure defense team in the halfcourt, and Chaminade had some open shooting windows, and capitalized, much in the way that Penn State, Northwestern and Toledo have against the Spartans in surprise losses in recent years.

    As for the problems with the ball screens, that won't be a problem in the near future. Izzo works it and fixes it better than any coach in America.

    By Jim Comparoni, in East Lansing


  • "I thought he played phenomenal because they played pretty good defensively," Izzo said of Lucas. "He had some opportunities offensively. He played under control. I thought he played very well."

    Michigan State held its composure against the hometown favorites, though, sticking close before going on a game-deciding run midway through. The Spartans move on to face Connecticut in the semifinals.

    "We bounced back in the second half but we are going to have to play better, that's for sure," Izzo said.

    The Spartans took control of a game that was tied at halftime with a 15-1 run midway through the second half. Freshman Keith Appling keyed the run with a big 3-pointer, and a lay-in off a fastbreak lob from Lucious. Also in the run, Austin Thornton delivered a big 3-pointer from the right wing on a skip pass from Draymond Green.

    "With Garrick Sherman getting in foul trouble and Durrell Summers in getting in foul trouble early we just had some weird lineups in there," Izzo said. "We had Austin Thornton at the four. A lot of things are a struggle when you have different people in there. We got in foul trouble early and that hurt us.

    "Give credit to Chaminade. They played four shooters. They made shots. They played well. They played hard.

    "The combination of them playing well and us playing poorly, but we definitely did not play the way Michigan State should play."

    Steven Bennett, a short, superquick point guard who could start for some Big Ten teams, led Chaminade with 20 points and 11 assists, and 7-foot Mamadou Diarra, a former Top 100 recruit who transferred from USC, added 16 points, 12 rebounds and blocked five shots. Diarra, like Bennett, could start for some Big Ten teams. Together, they provided an inside-outside combination that made MSU sweat.

    Chaminade is loaded with shooters and has done the David-vs-Goliath thing once with its win over Ralph Sampson and the Cavaliers on these same islands, and again a few years later against Denny Crum and Louisville. The Division II Silverswords haven't faced a team ranked this high since, though, and didn't figure to match up well with Michigan State.

    Bennett, Chaminade's 5-foot-6 guard/blur, drove fearlessly to the lane to cast shots high off the glass over Michigan State's defenders, confidently stroked in 3-pointers from three feet and more behind the arc.

    Diarra, the other half of Chaminade's big-and-tall combination, flicked in a couple of jump hooks, threw down a two-handed dunk and used his 7-foot reach to meet Adreian Payne and Durrell Summers at the rim for swats.

    A little over halfway through the first half of this expected blowout, Chaminade appeared ready to ring the upset bell again, leading 33-25 over the shellshocked Spartans.

    Michigan State tried to put an end to this potential down-in-history nightmare. Lucious hit a pair of 3s, Lucas pulled up for jumpers and got to the rim, Green launched himself airborne to steal an inbound pass.

    Chaminade still wouldn't go away, answering every Spartans' run with a big 3-pointer or runner in the lane. Even when Diarra missed a rebound slam at the halftime buzzer, the Silverswords were giddy, racing out onto the floor for high-fives and slaps on the back after tying mighty Michigan State 39-all.

    It didn't end there.

    The Silverswords weren't satisfied with a moral-victory halftime tie and opened the second half still firing, getting three 3-pointers from Hanson in the first 4 minutes to go up 50-45.

    Then the Spartans hit the accelerator and ran over Chaminade's hopes.

    Turning up the defensive pressure and getting out on the break, Michigan State extended the 15-1 run to a 20-3 binge, going up 69-53 on Lucas' fastbreak layup with 11 minutes left.


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