LAHAINA, Hawaii — Kalin Lucas scored 29 points and keyed a second-half rally, helping No. 2 Michigan State salvage a 76-71 win over No. 13 Washington in the third place game of the Maui Invitational on Wednesday.
Michigan State (4-1) trailed by 10 after a turnover-filled first half, but charged back behind Lucas. The senior guard scored seven points during an opening 18-5 run that put the Spartans up 52-49 and hit two game-sealing free throws in the closing seconds after injuring his knee a few minutes earlier.
Washington (3-2) had a superb first half shooting and wasn’t bad for the day, but couldn’t stop the Spartans in the second half for a second straight tough defeat. Matt Bryan-Amaning had 15 points and Isaiah Thomas added 13 and six assists for the Huskies.
Lucas keyed the big early run in the second half and kept firing. Washington kept answering and the ensuing back-and-forth was filled with 3-pointers, hard drives and dunks in transition.
Michigan State’s Durrell Summers, 1-for-9 at the time, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Spartans up 72-68 with just over a minute left. Thomas responded with a tough spin-off-the-glass against three defenders a few seconds later, and the Huskies got the ball back when Draymond Green slipped to the floor and out of bounds.
Green then fouled Bryan-Amaning, who made just 1 of 2 free throws with 13 seconds left. The Huskies were forced to foul and Korie Lucious made both free throws to make it a three-point game, then Lucas sealed it with two free throws after Washington’s C.J. Wilcox shot an airball 3-pointer at the other end.
Michigan State struggled in the first round against tiny Chaminade before pulling it out and lost a brutally-physical game to unranked Connecticut in the semifinals.
The loss to UConn will certainly knock the Spartans down the rankings and continued their non-postseason tournament struggles.
Michigan State has done well in the spring, winning a national championship in 2000 and reaching the Final Four six times in 12 years, including the last two.
When it comes to during-the-season tournaments outside of East Lansing, the Spartans can’t seem to get things right.
Michigan State is currently on a 13-year championship-less drought, with losses in Maui, Alaska, Kansas City and Puerto Rico, among others. This year’s seniors lost in the final at the 2007 CBE Classic, the first round of the 2008 Old Spice Classic and last year’s final of the Legends Classic.
The loss to coming-on-strong UConn completed the set, leaving the Spartans hoping to regroup against another talented team.
They did it, but just barely.