No. 12 Michigan St. 69, The Citadel 56

The Citadel’s players kept hitting 3-pointers, and Michigan

State coach Tom Izzo was left asking anyone around the same

question.

“Could you be any dumber than I am?” he said, in reference to

bringing his 12th-ranked Spartans to McAlister Field House.

But Michigan State (7-2) bailed out its longtime coach, Kalin

Lucas scoring 17 points and the Spartans picking up their defense

down the stretch in a 69-56 victory Monday night.

Izzo agreed to the game years ago in a deal with his friend,

former Citadel athletic director Les Robinson.

The Bulldogs (6-5) nearly made Izzo and the Spartans look

foolish, using a 12-of-20 performance from behind the arc to keep

things tighter than anyone expected.

“I’m not sure I’ve been in games where both teams made 12 3s,”

Izzo said.

The Spartans figured to have an easier time in their second trip

South in less than a week. Michigan State fell at North Carolina

89-82 on Dec. 1. But the Spartans didn’t count on the long-range

threat from the Bulldogs, who made their first seven 3s.

“That kind of let them know we were here to play,” said Zach

Urbanus, who hit four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points for

the Citadel.

Michigan State found its defense at the end, holding the

Bulldogs to two baskets over the last eight minutes to pull

away.

Cameron Wells had 16 points to lead the Citadel, which fell to

0-34 all-time against ranked opponents.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God. They’re not missing,”’ Lucas said.

“But we just kept fighting.”

Raymar Morgan had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans,

who have won all three games they’ve played against the

Bulldogs.

Not that it was easy.

Urbanus’ basket with 8:16 left pulled the Citadel to 56-51 and

looked to set up a tight finish.

Korie Lucious came back with a 3-pointer for Michigan State, and

Morgan put back Chris Allen’s miss to make it 61-51.

The Bulldogs could not answer.

Izzo had his players and staff walk around campus earlier

Monday, soaking up the military college’s atmosphere of

service.

“I think it helps give you an appreciation of what people that

really sacrifice are all about,” the coach said.

The Bulldogs hadn’t hosted a ranked team from a power conference

since Tim Duncan and then-No. 3 Wake Forest won 86-52 on Nov. 25,

1996.

With Michigan State, the Bulldogs pulled out as many stops as

they could. Coach Ed Conroy’s famous cousin, author Pat Conroy,

signed copies of his latest novel, “South of Broad,” before the

game. Pat’s jersey from his Citadel playing days, a subject of his

2002 memoir “My Losing Season,” was raffled off to fans.

The school’s Corps of Cadets filled the stands surrounding the

tunnel to Michigan State’s locker room and loudly taunted the

Spartans throughout.

Then it was the Bulldogs’ turn to rattle Michigan State.

The Citadel, a so-so 35 percent on 3-point attempts coming in,

hit its first seven tries – including four in a row – from behind

the line.

Still, the Spartans looked on their way to taking control,

pulling ahead 35-29 on Chris Allen’s jumper with 3:22 to go before

the half.

But Wells finished a three-point play and Urbanus hit the

Bulldogs’ eighth 3 of the half to tie it.

Several hundred green-shirted Michigan State fans, expecting an

easy blowout, instead stood nervously for much of the period as the

Citadel kept it close.

Austin Thornton’s putback sent Michigan State to the break with

a 40-36 lead.

The Citadel continued shooting well from long range in the

second half, with Urbanus and Cosmo Morabbi each hitting 3s to cut

the lead to 47-45.

“They were hitting 3s, but we didn’t panic,” Morgan added.

“We kept with our offense and kept executing.”