Tom Izzo believes a difficult non-conference schedule helps prepare his Michigan State team for March Madness. The Maui Invitational certainly fits the bill.
The second-ranked Spartans face Chaminade on Monday night in the opener of the tournament, which this season features No. 12 Kentucky and No. 18 Washington as potential late-round matchups.
Michigan State (2-0) seems unlikely to have much trouble with the Division II Silverswords. The Spartans will be looking to advance to a matchup with perennial Big East contender Connecticut or Missouri Valley Conference favorite Wichita State on Tuesday.
Michigan State is coming off an 82-73 victory over South Carolina on Tuesday, taking control with a 23-4 run to close the first half. Durrell Summers scored a team-high 22 points, Delvon Roe had 15 and Draymond Green added 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Spartans guard Kalin Lucas turned his ankle against the Gamecocks and scored only five points, but played 29 minutes and will be in the lineup versus Chaminade.
While Lucas may not be at full strength Monday, Roe validated his claim that he is finally at 100 percent after recovering from recent surgeries on both knees. The junior had 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and a block by halftime in one of his best stretches in three seasons.
“I would say in Delvon’s case it was his best half,” Izzo said. “You can definitely see where he is more explosive. He is putting the ball on the floor a little bit better. He did some very good things defensively.”
Izzo wasn’t pleased with his team’s free-throw shooting, as the Spartans went 17 of 34 from the line. That helped South Carolina to outscore Michigan State 48-40 in the second half to tighten the game.
The Spartans finished last in the Big Ten in free-throw percentage last season at 68.5, and have shot 59.2 percent in their first two games of 2010-11.
“I didn’t think we played good from the start,” Izzo said. “We had a few stretches where we did. The free-throw shooting did cause me to not go with certain lineups.”
Izzo will get another opportunity to figure out his rotation against Chaminade (3-0), which faces its highest-ranked opponent since upsetting No. 1 Virginia in 1982.
The Silverswords returned their top four scorers from last season, including 5-foot-6 senior Steven Bennett, who leads the team at 19.3 points per game. Mamadou Diarra averages 16.3 points and 12.3 rebounds.
Michigan State has won both meetings, the most recent an 89-67 victory in the opener of the 2005 Maui Invitational.
This is the fourth time the Spartans have competed in the tournament. They won the championship in 1991, finished fifth in 1995 and placed third in 2005.