Annapolis, Md. – Travis Trice had a career game on Friday night, but the Michigan State senior wasn't relishing it.
He scored a career-high 25, handed out five assists, grabbed five rebounds and didn't turn the ball over, but the only thing he was worried about was the way his team played in a 64-59 victory over Navy in the Veterans Classic at Alumni Hall.
"I had a lot of mistakes," Trice said. "It's not about me, it's about our team. We have to figure out what we are doing wrong. You've got to tip your hat to Navy.
"I expected it to be smoother than this. We kind of fell apart. It's a learning experience. I don't want to sound down. We're upset with the way we played but at the same time we got a win. That was our goal, to get a win."
Branden Dawson added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Spartans (1-0), but only two of those points came in the second half. Denzel Valentine was held to five points on 2-for-10 shooting.
"I don't know what made Denzel and Dawson struggle so much," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "By far my most baffling stat is my junior and my senior, my two best players, that's the most baffling stat, by far. Branden has his moments of highlight film, and he has his moments of low-light film."
Dawson scored eight straight points in one stretch in the first half. But that was about it for his highlights, while Valentine never got into a rhythm.
"It was mindboggling to me," Izzo said of Dawson's play. "He's practiced so hard, but yeah, it was disappointing. I can't sugar-coat it. It's inexcusable."
The result was a near disaster for the Spartans.
As Izzo, Valentine and Dawson reiterated, if not for Trice, Michigan State likely would have opened the season with a substantial upset.
"He carried us and if it wasn't for him we would have lost," Valentine said of Trice. "I kept telling him, 'Keep taking over, keep scoring,' because it wasn't flowing for me and B.J."
It was flowing, however, for Trice and he was the catalyst to open the second half.
Trice hit two straight 3-pointers to push Michigan State's lead to 42-29, but Navy scored the next 10 to cut the Spartans' lead to three with 14:58 to play in the second half, and capped a 14-2 run with a layup from Jace Hogan to cut the Michigan State lead to 44-43 with 11:17 to play.
"They played like the military tonight," Izzo said. "They didn't give up. We played bad and they made some big shots."
After Navy cut the lead to one, the Spartans answered with six straight points and eventually pushed the lead to 58-50. Will Kelly then scored on a jump hook to cut the MSU lead to six but Trice got a steal and hit two free throws to push the lead back to eight, only to watch Brandon Venturini hit a 3-pointer.
Kelly followed with a pair of free throws to cut the Michigan State lead to 60-57 with 1:57 to play. Trice then hit a runner in the lane and the Spartans followed with a stop. But after a miss on the drive by Bryn Forbes, Kelly got a putback on the other end to make it 62-59 with 23.1 seconds to play.
Trice was fouled on the next possession and split a pair of free throws, then grabbed a rebound at the other end. He put the game away with one more free throw in the final seconds.
Edward Alade scored 12 to lead Navy (0-1) while Venturini scored 11.
For Navy coach Ed DeChellis, who compiled a 4-11 mark against Michigan State in his years at Penn State, coming close against the Spartans was only one highlight.
Just facing the perennial power was another.
"Tom did an unbelievable thing by coming here in our first year of the Veterans Classic," DeChellis said. "A lot of guys didn't want to take that step. He was a guy that never flinched."
Now Michigan State must find a way to turn things around before facing No. 4 Duke on Tuesday.
"I'm still looking forward to this game," Izzo said. "If we play like we did (against Navy), we'll get embarrassed, and that's sometimes a good thing. But I don't think that's going to happen.'"
Michigan State sophomore guard Alvin Ellis started but left the game early in the first half with a sprained ankle. Ellis hurt the ankle after throwing a lob to Dawson that tied the score at 14. He fell to the ground clutching his right ankle and spent the rest of the game on the bench with ice on the ankle.
"What I saw didn't look good," said Izzo, who added he didn't think the ankle was broken.