No. 20 Baylor, No. 24 Michigan to meet on short rest
Judging by the first 32 minutes of each of their first round games Wednesday in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, it seemed No. 24 Michigan State and No. 20 Baylor were destined for a second-day matchup in the consolation bracket and not the semifinals.
Baylor was mired in a tie with 8:38 remaining against VCU, while Michigan State led St. John's only 55-53 with 8:22 left.
But the Bears and Spartans showed why they are ranked and two of the tournament-title contenders from that point on, taking over to win going away and setting up what was the expected semifinal matchup going into the tournament.
There won't be much time for either team to recover at Thursday's semifinal begins at noon ET.
“I thought in the first half when we were turning the ball over and they were doing a great job taking us out on offense, especially the last 10 minutes of the game of the first half, we were able to come in the locker room and players showed great leadership and poise to be able to regroup and only have five turnovers in the second half,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I thought that was outstanding, especially with the pressure they put on.”
As was the case for the Bears in their first four games, they were led Wednesday by the three-headed monster of junior forward Johnathan Motley (19 points), junior guard Manu Lecomte (16 points) and junior guard Al Freeman (15 points).
Lecomte and Motley average more than 16 points, while Freeman averages better than 14.
Michigan State (3-2) won its last three games after losing to No. 8 Arizona and top-ranked Kentucky, in the process throwing a talented freshman class into the fire.
Freshman Miles Bridges is the team's leading scorer at more than 17 points per game and rebounder at better than 10 and freshman big man Nick Ward had nine points and 11 rebounds against St. John's, while point guard Cassius Winston and guard Josh Langford have also seen significant minutes.
Senior guard Eron Harris started to come on over the past two games, scoring 31 points against Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday and adding 14 points and seven rebounds against St. John's.
While the Bears tipped off at 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the preparation time is even worse for the Spartans, whose game didn't end until after 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
“It's disappointing, if you want the truth,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of the short turnaround during his postgame show on the Spartan Sports Network. “It's almost insane. It's not right. I don't want to rip anybody here, but I'm concerned. Especially when the other team had four or five more hours to prepare for us. But it is what it is and we will go play the game.”