Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – It had the atmosphere of game in late March, and while the championship game of the Orlando Classic was far from that – classic – it had plenty of drama.
In the end, however, No. 20 Michigan State couldn't get the shots to fall as No. 11 Kansas took advantage to hold on for a 61-56 victory at the HP Field House on Sunday.
"I think we kind of had an off-night. It was rough," senior guard Travis Trice said. "It was just a rough day shooting. We missed a lot of layups that we usually hit; I know myself, I missed a few. I don't know, just the ball falling the wrong way for us. Those are shots we hit every day, we just missed them today. Not to take anything away from them, those are shots we make all the time. I think it's more on us."
It was that way for most of the second half, right down to Michigan State's final chance to put together a comeback.
Trailing by three points in the final minute, Branden Dawson got to the rim but missed a close shot, a fitting end for a team that shot just 8-for-33 in the second half, including 1-for-9 from 3-point range and nearly a dozen shots that missed from near the basket.
Michigan State's coach talks about Sunday's setback in the Orlando Classic final.
"We just didn't execute very well," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "And you can't miss easy shots. And the number of layups we missed was incredible. I'm not sure Kansas played great, I'm not sure Michigan State played great. Maybe we should be crediting both defenses. They found a way to win, give them credit. We found a way to lose, give us blame."
Trice and Denzel Valentine each scored 14 to lead the Spartans (5-2), but neither was outstanding as Trice was just 3-for-14 and the bulk of Valentine's production came in the first half.
Kansas (5-1) wasn't a whole lot better, shooting just 37 percent for the game, but it got 17 points from Perry Ellis, 11 from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and 10 from Frank Mason III.
"We guarded them pretty good and I thought they guarded us pretty good," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "They make you play over the top and you're not going to get a lot of easy baskets. We missed some open looks and they missed some open looks, but the game really starts when you play them when the ball is in the air."
That means rebounding, and Kansas controlled that part of the game, as well, grabbing 44 rebounds to 36 for the Spartans, who were outrebounded for the second straight game.
"We did a good job on the glass," Self said.
The game started well enough for the Spartans, who managed to open a seven-point lead thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Valentine as the Spartans went on a 16-6 run to turn a 10-7 deficit into a 23-16 lead. But the Jayhawks scored the next eight to go back up one as it went back and forth for the rest of the half.
The biggest problem for Michigan State at that point was a lack of depth. Six players had two fouls before halftime and with Alvin Ellis and Javon Bess still out with injuries, there weren't many options on the bench.
At one point in the first half, Colby Wollenman and Trevor Bohnhoff – both walk-ons – were on the floor together. It was what Izzo referred to as his "Iron Mountain lineup," one that actually helped the Spartans maintain a 36-35 lead at the break.
"I was trying to save some guys from more foul trouble," Izzo said. "So I kept changing the lineups and that was taxing as a coach; I can promise you I've never been in a situation as bad. So, we got to live with it another week and then maybe we get some guys back."
He didn't have that help in the second half, however, as Michigan State opened shooting just 1-for-10 and Kansas went on a 10-0 run. The Jayhawks opened an eight-point lead midway through the second half before the Spartans were able to cut it to three.
But Michigan State, like it had for most of the game, couldn't come up with the big play at the most crucial time.
"If took something away from this I'd say there are more positives," Izzo said. "I had some guys that really competed but I had a couple of guys that didn't, and we're gonna have to fix that."