GAME NOTES: The Chaminade Silverswords are the host team of the Maui Invitational, and they will take on the second-ranked Michigan State Spartans in Monday's opening round.
Tom Izzo has led the Spartans to back-to-back Final Fours and has a roster loaded with talent, thereby justifying the high national ranking. The Spartans opened the 2010-11 campaign with a 30-point romp over Eastern Michigan and followed that tilt with an 82-73 victory over South Carolina last Tuesday. The preseason favorite in the Big Ten Conference, Michigan State figures to be tested by at least one elite team before this tournament concludes. The Spartans are 6-3 all-time in this event, and won the title in 1991.
Chaminade, a Division II program, has never won the Maui Invitational and is typically outclassed by heavyweight Division I opponents. The Silverswords figure to enter this year's event with plenty of confidence, as they have won their first three outings, all by double figures. Last Thursday, they knocked off Western New Mexico in an 81-70 final, but this tilt obviously represents a major leap in level of competition.
Michigan State has won both of its previous meetings with Chaminade, the most recent of which took place in 2005.
Three players excelled for Michigan State in the victory over South Carolina last time out, and it is surprising that one of them wasn't Kalin Lucas, widely considered to be the top guard in the Big Ten. Durrell Summers led the way against the Gamecocks with 22 points, and Draymond Green posted 18 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and four blocks. Delvon Roe rounded out the trio with 15 points and six assists. The Spartans connected on 54.7 percent of their field goal attempts, but they knocked down only 17-of-34 free throws, a disappointing aspect of an other solid effort. In the season-opening romp over Eastern Michigan, Lucas tallied 18 points and six assists to power a balanced attack. His team shot 52.5 percent overall in that affair while limiting the overmatched Eagles to 31.6 percent shooting.
The duo of Steven Bennett and Mamadou Diarra has been tremendously productive for Chaminade through the first three contests. Bennett is averaging 19.3 ppg on 50 percent shooting from the floor, and he is dishing out 6.7 apg as well. Diarra adds 16.3 ppg and 12.3 rpg to the mix, and is shooting a stellar 69.7 percent from the field. Diarra has also blocked 16 shots to date, and Shane Hanson rounds out the double-digit scorers for Chaminade with 10.0 ppg. In the 11-point win over Western New Mexico last time out, Bennett posted 24 points and seven assists, while Diarra tallied 22 points and 11 boards. The Silverswords connected on 50.9 percent of their field goal attempts and earned a 40-25 rebounding advantage. Defensively, they limited Western New Mexico to 36.7 percent overall shooting.
Clearly, Michigan State is far superior to Chaminade in every aspect of the game. The Spartans will have this contest put away at intermission, allowing Izzo to empty his bench early.