Next up: MSU holds off UConn 64-60 to advance to finals
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Michigan State followed a thrilling last-second win by blowing a big lead against a worn-down opponent and finding itself trailing late in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Tom Izzo’s Spartans advanced anyway with toughness and tenacity in the game’s critical moments for the second straight day.
A.J. Hoggard hit the go-ahead free throws with 30.3 seconds left and Michigan State scored the final nine points to push past No. 22 Connecticut 64-60 in Thursday’s semifinals, earning a trip to today’s championship game.
“It’s something coach has harped on us from the very beginning: just make the winning plays,” said Malik Hall, who had a big late steal and two free throws. “It’s something he’s been talking about since yesterday and the day before that.”
At the least, Izzo will have another set of examples in making that point again.
It was another tense finish for both teams after their first-round games had plenty of late-game drama — including two extra periods for the Huskies in a draining 115-109 win against No. 19 Auburn. But Michigan State did enough to take back momentum after the Huskies had gone up 60-55 with 1:41 left.
The Spartans (5-1) held the Huskies to 1-for-9 shooting in the final 3 minutes. The final stop came with the Huskies (5-1) getting a chance to tie. But after a long stretch of dribbling, Jalen Gaffney fired up a tough straightaway 3 that fell short of everything.
Tyson Walker hit a clinching free throw with 2.5 seconds left, sending the Spartans skipping into the tunnel and waving their arms along the way to their celebrating fans behind their bench.
Gabe Brown scored 16 points to lead the Spartans, who led 32-18 before halftime and shot just 32% after the break.
Adama Sonogo had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Huskies, while Tyrese Martin added 16 points and 12 boards despite being uncertain to play because of a sprained left wrist suffered in the Auburn win. The Huskies made just 2 of 16 3-pointers after making 15 of 26 in the Auburn win.
” It wasn’t a lack of guys giving their best,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. Michigan State’s really, really good and we blew it.”