The second-ranked Michigan State Spartans and Connecticut Huskies will collide today, and a berth in the championship game of the Maui Invitational is on the line.
UConn won the Maui Invitational championship in 2005, beating Gonzaga in the title game. This year's Huskies aren't considered one of the top teams in the Big East Conference, but Jim Calhoun's group has gotten off to a 3-0 start. Yesterday, UConn had its hands full with Wichita State, but the result was a hard-fought, 83-79 victory.
Yesterday, Michigan State took on Chaminade, the host team of this tournament, and the result was an 82-74 victory in a game that was much closer than expected. 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 with an 82-73 victory over South Carolina last Tuesday.
Michigan State beat Connecticut in the 2009 NCAA Tournament by an 82-73 final to take a 2-1 lead over the Huskies in the all-time series between the two programs.
Kemba Walker had an amazing night for UConn in last Wednesday's win over Vermont, as the standout guard poured in a career high and XL Center record- tying 42 points. Those 42 points also tied the record for most by any Husky under Calhoun. Everyone wondered how Calhoun would follow that effort in Monday's clash with Wichita State, and Walker scored just two points in the first half because of foul trouble. Fortunately, he completed dominated the second half, scoring 29 points in the final 20 minutes to finish with 31 points. Alex Oriakhi tallied 12 points against Wichita State, while Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith both netted 10 points. The most obvious key to the win for the Huskies was a 32-9 advantage in points from the foul line. Also, UConn committed just 10 turnovers, seven fewer than the Shockers.
Against Chaminade last night, Michigan State star guard Kalin Lucas poured in a career-high 28 points on the strength of his 11-of-20 shooting from the floor. Korie Lucious added 13 points off the bench for the Spartans, who won this tournament in 1991. Draymond Green tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Michigan State made good on 51.7 percent of its field goal attempts in the clash, including an 8-of-14 effort from three-point range. Surprisingly, the club was outrebounded by a 35-30 final by the Silverswords, who held a lead in the first half. Three players excelled for Michigan State in the victory over South Carolina, and it is surprising that one of them wasn't Lucas. Durrell Summers led the way against the Gamecocks with 22 points, and Green posted 18 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and four blocks. Delvon Roe rounded out the trio with 15 points and six assists for Michigan State, which has many big- time performers in the mix.
Michigan State is an elite team and will defeat UConn despite the best efforts of Walker. The Spartans are loaded in the frontcourt and backcourt.