The Spartans (4-2) competed in the consolation round of the Maui Jim Maui invitational against Georgia (4-2) Tuesday afternoon, in a game that many expected to be the semifinal matchup. After a strong first half performance from the Spartans that hinted at a blowout, the Bulldogs pushed back, behind freshman guard Anthony Edwards' 37-point night in the second. Michigan State's early lead and persistence through the second period provided just enough to secure the win, 93-85.
Michigan State started out the game looking far more fluid than they did the night before, when they were upset by Virginia Tech.
Passing the ball and moving in transition, the Spartans were able to dictate the game early, as they moved on all cylinders.
Only one roadblock stood in their way defensively, in the first, freshman guard and No. 2 projected NBA draft pick Anthony Edwards, who managed to keep senior guard Cassius Winston in check during the early minutes of the game.
The Spartans biggest struggles against Virginia Tech were turnovers and guard play in the absence of Winston.
They corrected both of these things in the early going, only sacrificing three turnovers over the first 20 minutes.
As for guard play, sophomore guard Foster Loyer began to come into the form that the team needed out of the backup.
With just under eight minutes left in the first, Winston checked out and Loyer subbed in. In the Spartans next two possessions, Loyer had six points and two threes.
Sophomore forward Aaron Henry would add to the teams first half success, making four of five shots from the field and ending with 11 points, two less than Winston.
Going in to the half, Michigan State would hold a commanding 52-31 lead.
The second half wouldn't have the same blowout story.
Edwards, who had just four points in the first half, showed why he was the No. 2 prospect in the nation, exploding for 33 points in the second.
The Georgia guards effort would bring the Bulldogs back within two points, with five minutes left in the game.
With Edwards foot on their throat, no matter what defense they threw at him, the Spartans were able to keep the Bulldogs at distance, holding on to their lead the entire second half.
Winston and junior forward Xavier Tillman would combine for 26 points in the second half, acting as the Spartans' only consistent offense. Winston would finish with 28 points and eight assists on the night, providing enough to keep Georgia at bay.
On the night, the Spartans didn't perform poorly. They showed much focus than the night prior, shooting 47.1% from three and adding 20 assists. Tillman's 15 point, 11 rebound double-double proved to be a key down the stretch, as the Spartans tried to stay ahead on the hot Anthony Edwards.
Michigan State will play one final game in Maui, Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., against the winner of UCLA and Chaminade. From there they will head back to East Lansing, to prep for a rematch of last years Elite Eight against current No.1 Duke, on Dec. 3.
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