Michigan State and Washington were hoping to be competing for a much more prestigious honor at the Maui Invitational. Instead, one of the elite teams in the nation will have to settle for third place.
Coming off a sloppy performance, the second-ranked Spartans will meet the No. 13 Huskies for the first time in almost 15 years on Wednesday night.
Michigan State (3-1) and Washington (3-1) were two of three ranked teams in the Maui Invitational, but both failed to reach the championship game.
The Spartans' run ended when they were upset 70-67 by Connecticut on Tuesday, as they committed 14 turnovers and shot a season-low 40.4 percent. They had chances to tie the game in the final 20 seconds, but Draymond Green missed two free throws before coming up short on a desperation shot, while Kalin Lucas threw a pass to no one on a miscommunication with Durrell Summers.
That performance came a night after Michigan State survived a major scare in an 82-74 win over Division II Chaminade.
"I'm very disappointed with the way we finished," coach Tom Izzo said Tuesday. "We had some things that just didn't work our way."
Despite struggling at times in Maui, Green has been a big reason for the Spartans' early season success. The junior forward is averaging 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 blocks. He had 22 points and 12 boards with five assists and three blocks against UConn, but was 6 for 10 at the line, which bothered him.
"Basically it falls on my shoulders," said Green, who has made 16 of 28 free throws on the season after making 67.2 percent of his chances in 2009-10.
Green could use some help from Lucas, who scored 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting Tuesday after getting a season-high 28 versus the Silverswords.
Meeting Washington for the first time since a win in the opening round of the 1996 NIT could mean another rough performance from the field for the Spartans.
The Huskies have held opponents to 38.9 percent from the floor, but weren't able to capitalize on another strong defensive performance in a 74-67 loss to eighth-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday. They limited the Wildcats to 39.1 percent shooting and 3 for 17 from beyond the arc. Washington wasn't much better, connecting on 38.5 percent of its shots and 3 for 13 from 3-point range after making 17 3s in a 106-63 win over Virginia a night earlier.
"Seems like sometimes the rim was moving anyway," coach Lorenzo Romar said referring to a 4.7-magnitude earthquake that centered on one of the neighboring islands during Tuesday's loss.
Washington could use improved efforts from forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning and guard Isaiah Thomas, the team's top two scorers at 14.3 per game each. They combined to go 7 for 25 from the field to total 20 points against Kentucky, while Thomas missed all four of his 3-point attempts.