Spartans Rebound Here in Maui to Beat Washington
Lahaina, Hawaii -- If playing big games early in the season is about building character, then the Michigan State Spartans should be in good shape.
After losing on Tuesday to Connecticut at the Maui Invitational, the Spartans found themselves on Wednesday facing the No. 11 team in the nation, Washington, a team that had just lost a hard-fought game with No. 9 Kentucky.
And with one half in the books, it didn't look good as Washington led 44-34 at halftime.
That's when the character started to show.
Kalin Lucas scored 18 second-half points to spark a 17-6 run to open the second half and Durrell Summers hit two big 3-pointers in the final two minutes to lead No. 2 Michigan State to a 76-71 victory over No. 11 Washington in the third-place game at the Lahaina Civic Center.
"It was a team effort and I said it was going to be a character game," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "It was a character win for us and I'm proud of them for that."
Summers was not himself for much of Wednesday's game, and the tournament as a whole. He shot poorly from the field and the free-throw line and had trouble holding on to the ball. With two minutes to play in the game, he was 1-for-9 from the field.
That's when Lucas -- who finished with a career-high 29 points -- went out of the game with an injured knee and just 2:42 to play and Izzo called on Summers.
And Summers answered the bell, hitting two straight 3-pointers, the first that put Michigan State up 69-68 and the next extended the lead to 72-68 with 1:15 to play.
Washington (3-2) cut it to 72-71, but Korie Lucious hit two free throws with 8.3 seconds left before Lucas nailed two to end the game.
"I was missing shots I normally make and that happens," said Summers, who finished with 12 points. "I think I just had to bounce back from it. I came off and let it go the same way and it went in. Then I was able to hit another. I think that helped me and helped the team while it showed coach what kind of ticker I have. I think I've been playing all right, I just haven't been scoring the ball.
"That was big for me and for my confidence. My teammates stayed behind me as well as coach and it just helped me pull through."
For Izzo, it was something he has been expecting, considering he thinks Summers has worked as hard as any player he's ever coached.
"I'm not going to lie to you, I was disappointed in Durrell," Izzo said. "I did not think he played very well. The difference between this year and last year is he has worked his tail off.
"He was a little down and I don't blame him for that. But I find it easier to go to him because I do believe in what he's done. That's the work he's put in where last year I didn't feel as good about that. So in some ways, maybe it was a gigantic step for him and I to understand that he's earned the fact that if he's 1-for-9, I can still go to him and he's still one of our best shooters."
With the two seniors clicking, the Spartans must now play Tennessee Tech on Sunday before heading to No. 1 Duke on Wednesday.
The win over Washington is just what Draymond Green thinks the team needed with tough tests still to come.
"I told the guys it's tough going to Duke and getting a win and it's tough going to Syracuse and getting a win," said Draymond Green, who scored 12 points and had six rebounds. "If we wanted to turn our season around and make it easier to go in and get a win there, this was a very important game for the rest of our season. â€¦ I think we did a great job of handling the adversity and sticking together as a team."