FINAL: MSU survives scare from Florida Gulf Coast
A frenetically paced and foul filled first half, seeing both sides commit nine turnovers and double digits infractions, left the Spartans leading by just one point to Florida Gulf Coast. In a basketball game that went back and forth until the final buzzer sounded, a combination of freshman free throws and the shooting stroke of senior guard Eron Harris prevented a major upset at Breslin Center on Sunday night, as MSU defeated the Eagles 78-77 in thrilling fashion.
Harris, who finished with a team-high 31 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 from 3-point range, hit his six three –– this one tying the game at 71–– with 1:52 left on the clock. From there, MSU went inside to freshman forward Miles Bridges for a layup, giving MSU the two-point lead with 44.7 seconds left.
Florida Gulf Coast responded with a putback dunk that silenced the Izzone crowd at Breslin Center. 22.8 seconds remained when MSU head coach Tom Izzo called timeout. Coming out of that timeout, it was MSU freshman guard Cassius Winston going to the line. After making one of two free throws, Winston boarded his own miss.
Bridges made two more free throws, making it a three-point game. An FGCU bucket with just four seconds remaining cut the deficit to one.Two missed MSU free throws gave the Eagles a chance to win the game. Their first attempt at a full court inbounds pass was swatted back at him by Bridges. The second attempt fell to the hands of FGCU's Antravious Simmons, but the buzzer sounded and his shot went wide.
Simmons and the rest of FGCU's coaches and players felt the clock started much too early, but the refs determined the game over and MSU survived a scare from the Eagles.
Harris was the offensive pulse for MSU for the entirety of the evening, leading the Spartans with a team-high 31 points. two points short of his career high. Bridges finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and fellow freshman Nick Ward chipped in nine points and five rebounds.
Florida Gulf Coast’s redshirt-junior guard Brandon Goodwin was an equal match to MSU’s Harris. Goodwin, who came in with a 20 points per game average, stayed on target, finishing with 18 points before fouling out with 3.4 second left.
FGCU's Simmons had a solid game against an undersized MSU front line. Simmons snagged himself a double-double on the night –– completing action with an 18 point, 12 rebound stat line.
The Eagles are no slouch team. The preseason favorites to win the Atlantic Sun battled Baylor to a nine-point loss despite being locked in a one-possession game until the final two minutes. They shot 44.1 percent from 3-point range as a team in their first three contests, knocking in just under nine per game.
That was their formula in attempting to beat the Spartans, and it nearly paid off. The Eagles converted 8-pf-17 from 3-point range, good for 65 percent, and had the game tied in the dwindling moments.
The referees assessed technical fouls to both Izzo and FGCU head coach Joe Dooley in the game. With the fast pace and physicality of the game, the refs were active with their whistles, calling a total of 46 fouls (18 on MSU, 28 on FGCU). Both sides struggled to convert free-throw opportunities, as MSU shot 58 percent from the line to FGCU’s 65 percent.
MSU's next game is Wednesday against St. John's in the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.