GAME NOTES: The second-ranked Michigan State Spartans and the 13th-ranked Washington Huskies are fresh off disappointing losses, and while neither can win the Maui Invitational title, they do have the opportunity to play for third place in today's final round.
Michigan State opened the season with two straight wins before departing for Maui, and the club overcame some rough patches to outlast Chaminade, the host team of this tournament, by eight points on Monday. Unfortunately for the Spartans, they did taste defeat on Tuesday, falling to UConn by a 70-67 final. Tom Izzo has led the Spartans to back-to-back Final Fours and has a roster loaded with talent, and it will be interesting to see how the players respond today.
While Michigan State competes in the Big Ten Conference, Washington is a Pac-10 squad that is coached by Lorenzo Romar. Like the Spartans, the Huskies opened the season with two straight home wins and got a victory on Monday at this tournament, besting Virginia by a 106-63 final to move to 3-0. Unfortunately, last night's clash with Kentucky represented a major spike in competition level, and Washington fell to the young Wildcats by a 74-67 final.
With regard to the all-time series between these two teams, the Spartans have won the last three matchups to take a 3-2 lead.
Michigan State possesses an impressive trio of double-digit scorers comprised of Draymond Green, Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers. Green is tops with 15.5 ppg on 60.6 percent shooting from the floor, and he is pulling down 10.5 rpg to go along with 4.5 apg. Lucas, the club's star point guard, provides 15.3 ppg and 4.0 apg, while Summers checks in with 14.5 ppg. The Spartans are generating 81.8 ppg while permitting 70.8 ppg to opponents. While Michigan State is shooting a healthy 49.8 percent from the floor, including 44.3 percent from three-point range, its opponents are hitting only 38 percent of their attempts from the floor. In yesterday's loss to UConn, both teams shot just over 40 percent from the floor, and both secured 40 rebounds. Michigan State committed five more turnovers than the Huskies, however, and that was the difference in the game. Green was tremendous off the bench, scoring 22 points to go along with 12 rebounds and five assists. Summers netted 13 points, and Lucas contributed 10 points.
There are a few obvious reasons that Washington fell short in last night's game against Kentucky. The Huskies made good on just 38.5 percent of their field goal attempts in the clash, including a 3-of-13 effort from three-point range. They also suffered a 49-39 rebounding disadvantage and had five more turnovers than assists. Add the fact that Washington was outscored 21-14 from the foul line and it comes as no surprise that the club lost the game. Isaiah Thomas led the Huskies as usual with 13 points, but he connected on only 4- of-14 field goal attempts and missed half of his 10 foul shots. Justin Holiday tallied 11 points for the Huskies, who got 10 points from Aziz N'Diaye. Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who was quiet against Kentucky, continues to pace Washington with 14.3 ppg, while Thomas checks in with 14.2 ppg. Holiday leads the team on the boards (8.0 rpg) and is scoring 12.8 ppg as well.
It is hard to imagine Michigan State losing a second straight game. Sure, Washington will keep things close, but the Spartans are the better team in this matchup.