CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — The Michigan State Spartans have battled early season injuries, and Wednesday night’s loss was part of the healing process.
With two players back from recent ailments, coach Tom Izzo wrestled with how to alter his substitution pattern, and the 13th-ranked Spartans lost 67-59 to Miami.
“That was a hard game to coach,” Izzo said. “I didn’t know how to approach it, and I probably didn’t do a great job. It’s going to get better once we get our rotation down. I still like where I think we’ve got a chance to go, but I sure don’t like it right now.”
Gary Harris returned from a shoulder sprain and scored 12 points in 25 minutes. Travis Trice was back from a concussion and had nine points in 12 minutes.
Even so, the Spartans’ offense sputtered, and their point total was a season low.
“It’s going to heal because we’re going to get healthy,” Izzo said. “There were bright spots with those two guys back.”
Keith Appling had 15 points for the Spartans (5-2), who lost for the first time since the season opener against Connecticut.
Senior Trey McKinney Jones scored a career-high 18 points for the Hurricanes (4-1), who held Michigan State without a field goal for a pivotal 5-minute stretch in the second half. McKinney Jones went 5 for 7 from 3-point range, including a basket that capped a 14-2 run to start the second half that put them ahead 41-33.
The lead grew to 57-45, and they went 8 for 8 from the free throw line over the final 2:11 to seal the victory.
Miami held the ball in the final seconds to run out the clock, and students then stormed the court, hoisting at least one player and the team mascot onto their shoulders and chanting, “A-C-C.” The game was part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
“I was thinking, `This is what college basketball is all about,'” coach Jim Larranaga said. “In fact, what I was really thinking was, `This is what being a college student is all about.’ Your greatest memories don’t come in the classroom. They come at events like this that you’ll remember years down the road.”
The Hurricanes’ second-year coach has worked hard to boost attendance, dispatching his players to dormitories to distribute pizza and chicken wings.
But Larranaga knows winning is the best way to create a bandwagon.
“This was November’s highlight,” he said. “Now we need to get some December highlights.”
The Spartans cut down on their turnovers — they had 12 after totaling 20 in each of the past two games — but they still struggled with their half-court offense. They stayed in the game only because they had 16 offensive rebounds.
“We’ve got to get a get a couple of guys playing harder, and we’ve got to get a couple of guys playing better,” Izzo said.
The Spartans trailed 48-42 with 10 minutes left, then went without a basket until Branden Dawson scored to cut the deficit to 57-47 with 4:55 left.
Shane Larkin and Durand Scott scored 15 points apiece for the Hurricanes, who went 9 for 16 from 3-point range and had only nine turnovers. Reggie Johnson had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Harris had 12 points for Michigan State and Dawson added 11.
Scott penetrated easily at the outset and scored nine consecutive points to help Miami take the lead. Trice and Harris hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to give the Spartans their biggest lead, 28-23, and they were up 31-27 at halftime.
“We took a few punches from Michigan State,” Larranaga said. “We needed to fight back, and we did.”
McKinney Jones hit from 3-point range for a 51-42 Miami lead, and made another 3 to beat the shot clock and make it 55-45.
“Every one of my 3s came from a pass,” he said. “My teammates were just finding me in the right spot.”
Scott’s two free throws gave the Hurricanes their biggest lead at 57-45, and thereafter Michigan State got no closer than eight points.
“It’s not the highlight of our season,” Johnson said. “It was a heck of a game, but we have to continue to get better.”