The mens basketball team added game No. 53 to its home winning streak Saturday, toppling Seton Hall, 68-64, at the Breslin Center. But the win didnt come without its difficulties.
The No. 17 Spartans had to play without junior forward Adam Ballinger, who will miss several weeks because of a severe ankle sprain. Couple that with a Pirate backcourt featuring guards Andre Barrett and Darius Lane, and the combination looked to spell disaster for the Spartans, who were looking to defend their Big Ten record home-court streak.
But timely free-throw shooting and a solid defensive effort kept the Spartans (9-3) on top of the Pirates (6-4) in the games final seconds.
"We deserved to win this game," Spartan head coach Tom Izzo said. "I thought we played well enough to win."
Sophomore guard Marcus Taylor handled the majority of the slack created by Ballingers absence, finishing with a team-high 18 points - including four points from the free-throw line in the games final 12 seconds.
Three other Spartans finished with double-digit points - junior forward Adam Wolfe with 11, junior forward Al Anagonye with 10 and freshman guard Chris Hill with 11 points.
The game seemed to be without the makings for a nail-biting finish when a Taylor three-pointer put the Spartans on top 62-49 with just less than five minutes to play. But after Taylors three, the Spartans couldnt manage to score for four minutes.
And while the Spartans were struggling, the Pirates went on an 11-point run to put them within two of the lead with less than a minute to play. Barrett led the charge with seven points in the games last minutes.
"I thought we had them put away a few times," Izzo said. "But Barrett almost single-handedly brought them back."
But the Spartans went 6-of-6 at the free-throw line - two from freshman guard Chris Hill and four from Taylor - in the last 18 seconds to seal the win.
In that same 18-second time span, Barrett traveled the length of the court twice for two fast break layups. He finished the night with a game-high 24 points, 16 coming in the second half.
"I think they should have run the same offense they used towards the end," sophomore center Jason Andreas said. "They shouldve just given Barrett the ball and let him drive and shoot layups.
"That was tough to stop."
With Seton Hall threatening with just less than 15 minutes in the game, officials had to stop play to clean up freshman guard Chris Hills vomit on the court under the Seton Hall basket. After the floor was wiped clean, the Spartans seemed to wipe out any chance of a Pirate comeback, scoring four quick points and forcing two Seton Hall turnovers in the next minute.
Two Anagonye free throws put the Spartans up 11 points, 45-34, and capped an 8-0 run that seemed to put the Pirates away. But after consecutive three- pointers from Barrett and two from Lane, the Pirates trailed by only two, 45- 43.
Barretts and Lanes hot shooting was absent in the first half, as the Spartans held both Pirates scoreless for the first 15 minutes of play. Barrett finished the half with eight points, and Lane, who finished the night with 11, was held scoreless.
The Spartans headed to the locker room at the half with a 31-24 advantage behind stifling defense and solid shooting. Seton Hall managed to sink only nine of its 35 field-goal attempts in the first half, while the Spartans connected on 13-of-29 shots, including 3-of-6 from behind the three-point stripe.
The Pirates managed to connect only three times in 14 tries from three-point land.
The win capped a busy winter break for the Spartans, which saw four wins in just eight days.
MSU next takes on Stanford on Dec. 29 in Oakland, Calif.
"After this tough stretch, (all I want for Christmas) is to go home and get some of my mothers cooking and a little rest," Taylor said.