NEW YORK — A close game is what fans were expecting, and that’s just what the fans have gotten, as the No. 4 seed MSU men’s basketball team leads No. 1 seed Virginia 31-27 at the half.
It was a shoot-first mindset from the start for the Spartans, as four of their first five shots were from long range, hitting two of them.
So much has been made about the Virginia defense ranked No. 1 in the nation, but it was the MSU defense that stepped up in the first ten minutes of the game, holding Virginia to the less than 40 percent shooting.
Branden Dawson took over, scoring eight straight points for the Spartans to put them up ten with just under nine minutes to play in the first half.
But the Cavaliers didn’t go away, and went on a 10-0 run to tie the game and get the pro-Virginia crowd back into the game.
As good as MSU look in the early stages of the game, they were equally as bad in the second part.
Both Payne and Matt Costello picked up two fouls, and Keith Appling and Gary Harris attempted three shots between them and scored three points.
The Spartans were able to contain the run after an aggressive drive by Harris, and a hustle play by Dawson, Valentine and Harris that gave MSU the lead again.
Dawson was the leading scorer for MSU with 11 points, while Payne added seven despite missing much of the period with foul trouble. Dawson also led the way with five rebounds.