Spartans Beat Chaminade to Advance Here at the Maui Classic
Lahaina, Hawaii -- Tom Izzo said it best on Monday night in Maui, "Thank God for Kalin and Draymond. They both played exceptionally well."
Without those two -- Kalin Lucas and Draymond Green -- there is a good chance Michigan State would have become part of basketball lore, joining the No. 1 Virginia team that lost to Chaminade in 1983 and proved to be the catalyst for the Maui Invitational.
The No. 2 Spartans trailed by as many as nine points on Monday against Chaminade, but a career-high 28 points from Lucas, some deft passing from Green and a huge 20-3 run in the second half led Michigan State to an 82-74 victory.
"The one thing I tried to do was be more aggressive," said Lucas, whose 14 first-half points kept Michigan State in the game early. "I just wanted to attack and make plays for my teammates and make shots for myself. That's what I was able to do."
The victory means Michigan State (3-0) will play Connecticut at 7 p.m. on Tuesday with the winner advancing to the tournament championship game.
"We didn't do a good job and deserve a lot of blame for that," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of the game. "But they played well and deserve a lot of credit. They weren't just lucky, they were good and they played good."
The Spartans were in trouble for most of the first half because they couldn't slow down Chaminade point guard Steven Bennett. The 5-foot-6 Bennett scored 13 first-half points to help the Swords (3-1) go into the locker room with a 39-39 tie. He finished with 20 points and 10 assists.
But the Spartans were able to slow him with Korie Lucious, who came in and put the clamps on Bennett defensively.
"I just felt it was my job to try and contain him," Lucious said. "He was getting a lot of buckets and I was holding him, so I was just doing my best to contain him. He's so small, so quick, I just tried to contain him and not get open fast-break layups."
Lucious, who scored 13 points, also helped out on the offensive end as he was a big part of the 20-3 run that put Michigan State up 65-53 with 12:12 to play.
In one stretch, Lucious hit a 3-pointer, passed to Keith Appling for a 3-pointer and then caught and converted an alley-oop pass from Appling. Austin Thornton then added a 3-pointer before Lucious made two free-throws to end the run.
Despite the run by Michigan State, Chaminade -- now 5-72 in tournament play -- would not go away and cut Michigan State's lead to 73-66 with 2:45 to play on a 3-pointer by Shane Hanson.
That's when Lucas seemed to take over again, converting a three-point play to put the lead back up to 10 at 76-66 with 1:46 to play before the Spartans salted away the win.
The biggest concern for Izzo after the game was rebounding.
The Spartans were outrebounded for the second straight game. Chaminade had a 35-30 edge on Monday and the Spartans lost out to South Carolina last week, 44-41.
"We're not a program that gets outrebounded two games in a row," Green said. "We're not concerned to the point where we can't do it. â€¦ We can't keep getting outrebounded. The forte of this program is rebounding."
Michigan State now faces a Connecticut team it beat 82-73 in the 2009 Final Four.
One player who was on that Connecticut team was Kemba Walker. In the first game of the tournament on Monday, Walker helped the Huskies advance all on his own, scoring 29 second-half points to rally Connecticut to an 83-79 victory over Wichita State.
"I know he had 42 in the last game," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said, referencing Walker's output in a victory over Vermont last week, "but that, to me, was maybe the best game that he's played."