ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Two wonderful days at the Naval Academy ended for Michigan State with a very ugly victory.
After touring the institution, eating at the mess hall and interacting with the Midshipmen on Thursday, No. 18 Michigan State struggled mightily during the business portion of the trip, squeezing past Navy 64-59 Friday night in the Veterans Classic.
Looking back at his experience at the inaugural event, Spartans coach Tom Izzo said, "I was impressed with everything but Michigan State, to be honest with you."
Travis Trice scored a career-high 25 points for the Spartans, who blew most of a 13-point lead in the second half.
Though having a height advantage and supposedly a huge talent edge, Michigan State got all it could handle from the disciplined Midshipmen.
"The bottom line is, they played like they are: military people," Izzo said. "They didn’t quit."
Michigan State led 44-43 with 11 minutes left and 53-50 with 7 minutes remaining before Navy went cold. A 3-pointer by Denzel Valentine, coupled with a layup by Braden Dawson with 5:29 to go, upped the margin to eight points.
It wasn’t good enough. The Midshipmen cut it to 60-57, and again the Spartans appeared in trouble.
"We just weren’t very good as a team, and they were," Izzo said.
Trice made the difference. The senior guard’s driving shot with 1:46 left made it 62-57, and his three free throws in the final 18 seconds sealed it.
"It’s not about me right now. It’s about the team," Trice said. "We’ve got to figure out what we’re doing wrong. That’s not how we want to play."
Edward Alade led Navy with 12 points. The Midshipmen were outrebounded 38-30 but stayed close by forcing 15 turnovers and committing only 10.
"Unfortunately we lost by five points, but we were right with them the whole game," said guard Timan Dunbar.
Each team went 6 for 10 from the foul line with Michigan State getting most of those attempts in the closing minutes.
A 3-pointer by Trice with 17:55 remaining put the Spartans up 42-29, their biggest lead. But the Midshipmen answered with a 10-0 run, getting points from four different players, and Izzo reluctantly took a timeout. When play resumed, Navy missed a chance to tie it when a 3-pointer by Brandon Venturini rimmed out. Trice scored on the other end, but it was hardly the beginning of the end for the Midshipmen.
"I blame myself," Izzo said. "It’s my job to get them ready to play and I just don’t think we did the things that we needed to do to be successful."
The Spartans didn’t take a free throw in the first half, but 16-for-28 shooting from the floor and a 19-10 advantage on the boards provided MSU a 36-29 lead at the break.
Michigan State: For the third time in four years, the Spartans opened the season in an event connected with the U.S. armed forces. In 2011, MSU played on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson in front of President Obama. In 2012, the Spartans played in the Armed Forces Classic against UConn on Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Navy: Coach Ed DeChellis fell to 4-15 against Izzo. DeChellis was 4-11 against Michigan State while at Penn State and 0-3 at East Tennessee State.
Michigan State plays No. 4 Duke on Tuesday in Indianapolis.
Navy plays at Notre Dame on Sunday.
Michigan State lost guard Alvin Ellis III to an apparent ankle injury with just three minutes elapsed. He did not return, and his status for Tuesday’s game is in doubt.