Spartans Fail to Impress Again, Squeek by Oakland

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The Spartans once again failed to play up to their national ranking.  This time against a team they should have handled.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

The Spartans once again failed to play up to their national ranking. This time against a team they should have handled. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

Auburn Hills -- It wasn't exactly what Michigan State might have expected, but considering the week the Spartans had, they'll take the victory.

The No. 7 Spartans overcame some poor stretches of shooting and a talented Oakland team to earn a 77-76 victory Saturday at the Palace.

Kalin Lucas carried the Spartans (7-3) through some cold stretches, scoring a game-high 25 as Michigan State now gets a week off before playing Prairie View next Saturday at the Breslin Center.

Keith Appling and Durrell Summers scored 12 for Michigan State and Draymond Green added 11.

It was enough to overcome 21 points from Oakland's Larry Wright and 17 from Keith Benson.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe said he was sick to his stomach after the game while Tom Izzo could find little to complain about.

Sure it was a one-point win over a mid-major, but the Spartans' effort was far better than they had in Tuesday's ugly loss to Syracuse.

"It was a one-point win and it wasn't against the Celtics," Izzo said. "But if you ask me, Oakland will be an NCAA team. I think that's the best team (Kampe) has had. … This team will be a real thorn in the side and you saw that against Purdue and Illinois. They didn't play good, they played really good."

The game started with a quick pace. Each team shot better than 43 percent from the field, including 50 percent from 3-point range in the first half.

Michigan State opened a 24-19 lead midway through the half before Oakland started to get hot. Wright hit two 3-pointers and Ledrick Eackles added another as the Grizzlies went on a 9-1 run to open up a 28-25 lead with 8:07 to play in the first half.

The Spartans bounced back, however, and regained the lead, 34-32, with 3:23 left in the half before closing out the first 20 minutes ahead, 39-35.

Michigan State started the second half strong, opening up a 49-39 lead behind the hot shooting of Appling. But the Spartans went cold at that point and Oakland took advantage, closing the lead to four with just more than seven minutes to play.

Oakland (5-5) battled the entire way, cutting it to 73-70 with 23 seconds to play, but Summers made one free throw and Green rebounded his miss, allowing Michigan State to go up six with two free throws from Korie Lucious.

A 3-pointer by Oakland's Reggie Hamilton cut it to 76-73 before Lucas hit one of two free throws. Hamilton then hit another triple with .4 seconds to play for the final margin.

"We're a good free-throw shooting team," Kampe said. "I told the guys, until they believe they can beat anybody in the country, we're gonna miss some free throws like that because we're thinking, 'Oh, if I miss this we're in trouble.' If Kalin Lucas is at the line, he's thinking, 'OK, I'm gonna make this one and get a stop.' That's the difference right now."

Considering how Michigan State played just a few days ago, Green and his teammates will take the victory.

"Everybody came out with energy," said Green, who added five rebounds and five assists. "We knocked some shots down at the beginning and they hit some shots as well. Guys cut out today and there were bodies on bodies. That's all we can ask for."