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Five Takeaways: Michigan State survives closing seconds in close win over Portland

The Spartans persevered through through a sleepy first 20 minutes to earn a second win at the Phil Knight Invitational...

Michigan State men's basketball had its hands full on Sunday night when they battled Portland in the fifth-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational.

After trailing by eight points at halftime, the Spartans dominated the majority of the second half to build a 12-point lead in the final four minutes of the game. However, the Pilots when on a 13-2 run down the stretch to close to withing 78-77, and had the ball with a chance to win with eight seconds remaining.

On the game's final possession, Portland got a couple looks at a game-winning basket, but both fell short and Michigan State escaped with a victory.

Here's five takeaways from tonight's game:

1. ) Late turnovers nearly cost Spartans

Michigan State took care of the ball fairly well in this game, particularly in the first 16 minutes of the second half, but as we've seen with this program in recent years, the turnovers can come in bunches.

The Spartans had just eight for the game, but a couple late ones helped Portland go on that 13-2 run to close the game, and nearly spelled disaster for Michigan State. Overall, I think MSU is taking better care of the basketball so far this season, but there's still some room for improvement there.

2.) Hello, Pierre Brooks!

Sophomore guard-wing hyprid Pierre Brooks was a sharpshooter in this one, and Michigan State really needed it. Portland is a team filled with three-point shooters, and the Spartans needed help to keep pace from outside.

That's exactly what Brooks provided tonight for Michigan State. The sophomore tied his career-high with 15 points, and went 4-for-4 from beyond the three-point line. He also added three rebounds and an assist.

Brooks still needs to improve defensively, but he's come up with some crucial baskets each of Spartans' last two games of the Phil Knight Invitational.

3.) Mady Sissoko takes charge

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I called out Mady Sissoko a bit after Michigan State's last game against Oregon, calling for the junior big man to be more productive for MSU.

That's exactly what he did tonight, finishing with 11 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Sissoko went 4-of-5 from the floor, and 3-of-3 from the foul line. Those three free throws were part of an incredible seven-point possession for Michigan State, which helped the Spartans turn the game around.

Sissoko was fouled on an alley-oop dunk, and the officials deemed it a Flagrant One foul. So, Sissoko's dunk and three free throws gave Michigan State five points and the ball, and the Spartans scored again for the final two points of the possession. That was part of a 12-0 run for MSU to give them the lead, and the Spartans never relinquished the lead from then on.

4.) A.J Hoggard returns to form

In the first two games of the Phil Knight Invitational, point guard A.J. Hoggard had just four assists against seven turnovers. This came after the junior had averaged over eight assists per game through MSU's first four games.

Tonight, Hoggard returned to form, dishing out nine assists while adding 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting. The junior added three rebounds and a steal. Hoggard did turn the ball over three times, but that's a manageable number for the Spartans point guard.

5.) Spartans own the glass in 2nd half

When Michigan State trailed at halftime, they were also trailing the Pilots in the rebounding department. Even with the Spartans short-handed without Jaden Akins and Malik Hall, it was inexcusable for a physically-superior team like MSU to get out-rebounded by Portland.

Michigan State remedied that in the second half however, dominating the glass and ended the game with a 34-26 edge in rebounding. Sure, Izzo would love the Spartans to control the glass from start to finish, especially in a game like this, but MSU buckled down when they needed to after halftime.

Up Next

After three games in four days on the West Coast, Michigan State has earned a couple days off. The Spartans can't get too comfortable however, as they will have to travel to South Bend, Ind. for a date with Notre Dame (5-1) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 30.

The Fighting Irish opened their season with five wins over lesser opponents, but were beaten by NCAA Tournament-regular St. Bonaventure in their last outting.

After falling to No. 18 Alabama in their first game of the Phil Knight Invitational, it won't be surprising to see Michigan State drop a couple spots from their No. 12 ranking when the Associated Press releases its new rankings on Monday.