Starting yet another season in an unfamiliar locale, the MSU men’s basketball team suffered a gut-wrenching result to kick off its 2012-13 campaign.
After being defeated in the first outdoor college basketball game on an aircraft carrier a season ago, the No. 14 Spartans didn’t have much better luck on Friday, falling to Connecticut, or UConn, 66-62 in the Sears Armed Forces Classic at the U.S. Air Force Base in Ramstein, Germany.
Carried by a 25-point outing by junior guard Shabazz Napier, the Huskies overpowered MSU for much of the evening, losing the lead just once in the game and opening up the post-Jim Calhoun era with a victory.
“We did a very poor job of rotating players,” head coach Tom Izzo said in a release. “We made freshmen mistakes.”
Both teams entered the game in commemorative uniforms, closely resembling the appearance of U.S. military fatigues. But despite the energy of the moment, it was an uphill battle for the Spartans for much of the game.
The Huskies came out of the gates firing, opening up with a 6-0 run and leading by as many as 16 points in the half.
Along with Napier, UConn’s offensive assault was led by sophomores guard Ryan Boatright and forward DeAndre Daniels, who championed the Huskies to a 58.6 shooting percentage in the half.
Sophomore guard Branden Dawson’s performance carried MSU into the locker room with nine of his 15 points in the half, which allowed MSU to close the gap to 40-33.
In the second half, junior guard Keith Appling hit a layup with 5:43 remaining to give MSU its only lead of the night. Appling finished the game with 17 points and four assists to lead the Spartans.
However, the lead would be short-lived, as Napier drained a 3-pointer less than a minute later to seize the lead and, ultimately, the game for UConn.
“We are too fast, we are a transition team and when we get going, no one can keep up with us,” Napier said in a release. “We just tried to do what they did: transition. We got some easy rebounds, they came off the boards and we let them go.”
Dawson finished with 10 rebounds, while senior center Derrick Nix led all players with 11 rebounds to go along with six points on the evening.
The Spartans return to action at 7 p.m. Tuesday against No. 7 Kansas at the Champions Classic in Atlanta.