Michigan State battled for a half, but No. 6 Baylor pulled away in the second frame to beat the Spartans, 75-58, in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament championship on Friday.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the early proceedings, with the Spartans and Bears playing to an 14-14 tie in the opening seven minutes of play.
That was a microcosm of a first half that featured six lead changes and seven ties. Baylor's largest lead of the opening frame was six points, while Michigan State's largest advantage was five.
When the dust settled at halftime, the Bears lead 38-36 as the teams entered the locker rooms.
Baylor distanced themselves in the opening six minutes of the second half, outscoring the Spartans 17-6 during that stretch to increase the lead to 55-42.
Michigan State never really recovered from that surge from the Bears, and never mounted a threatening run in the second frame.
1. Jaden Akins' breakout game
This was the performance we've been waiting for out of Jaden Akins. The No. 52 overall recruit in the 2021 class, Akins has been overshadowed so far this season by his classmate Max Christie (No. 18 overall). But, today, Akins played very well off the bench for Michigan State. The freshman finished with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while adding 3 rebounds and a steal. Akins flashed his athleticism, size and strength from the guard position and showed why he was a highly sought after recruit. It was great to see the youngster have success against a tough opponent, and it bodes well for Tom Izzo and the Spartans as they get closer to conference play.
2. Spartans run out of gas
Michigan State has been real solid defensively all season long, and they went toe-to-toe with the Bears through the first 20 minutes today. But in the second half on Friday, the three games in three days seemed to catch up with the Spartans. Baylor shot 50 percent from the field, and got too many looks at the rim the further we got into this game. MSU was also out-rebounded for just the second time this season. It's understandable that MSU would be gassed at this point of the tournament, and that's what appeared to happen today.
3. MSU needs another consistent scorer
The senior was the most consistent scorer during this tournament, and he didn't get enough help on the offensive end of the floor in these past two games. Brown didn't shoot the ball as well today, 4-of-11 from the floor for 13 points, but still led the Spartans in scoring. The senior has been MSU's only consistent scorer so far this season, and that's a problem. Akins had a nice game today, Malik Hall broke out in the tournament opener against Loyola-Chicago, Marcus Bingham Jr. has scored in double-digits a handful of time -- but the Spartans need another consistent scorer to step up alongside Brown.
4. Turnover woes return
We aren't going to spend a ton of time here, because this has been a pretty constant problem for Tom Izzo's club, but once again Michigan State struggled with turnovers. When the Spartans built their five-point lead midway through the first half, Michigan State only had three turnovers. However, as the intensity of the game increased and Baylor started to assert themselves, the Spartans got loose with the ball again, and finished the game with 19 giveaways. Against really good teams, you can't give away that many possessions. Michigan State also only had nine assists on the day, and that's not going to get the job done most nights.