NEW YORK (AP) -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was quick to put
himself in the running for the understatements of the young college
The 14th-ranked Spartans handed No. 6 Boston College its first
loss of the season, 77-70 on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.
Michigan State shot 77.3 percent (17-for-22) in the second half
and the Spartans, who entered the game shooting 81 percent from the
free throw line went 15-for-18 from there, including making all
eight in the final 1:07 after the Eagles had pulled within 69-67.
"We executed better in the second half than in the first,"
Izzo said before adding a comment about the foul shots, "we've
been a very good free throw shooting team."
Insight like that is tough to come by.
Maurice Ager had 17 of his 22 points in the second half and Paul
Davis scored 14 of his 18 in the final 20 minutes as the Spartans
(6-2) improved to 2-1 this season against teams ranked in the Top
Michigan State lost to then-No. 8 Gonzaga in the semifinals of
the EA Sports Maui Invitational and beat then-No. 9 Arizona a day
later for third place in the eight-team tournament.
"We didn't play great but we played good enough to win," Izzo
said. "This was a step. How big a step? It's too early to tell."
The Spartans were locked in a close one with the Eagles (6-1)
until an 18-4 run gave Michigan State a 54-41 lead with 9:45 to
play. There were seven lead changes and one tie in the opening 4½
minutes of the second half. Then freshman Marquise Gray's
three-point play gave the Spartans the lead for good, 39-37, and
started the big run.
Craig Smith scored 17 points in the first 27 minutes of the
game, but with Davis playing strong inside defense, the 6-foot-7
senior forward had just one more point the rest of the way.
"In the first half we did the things we needed but the game has
to be played for 40 minutes," Boston College coach Al Skinner
said. "That separation they created in the second half was the
difference in the ballgame. We made a couple of mistakes. I didn't
think they did anything differently, they just continued to do what
they wanted to do."
Michigan State missed just one shot from the field in the
opening 13 minutes of the second half and was 28-for-52 (53.8
percent) for the game.
Boston College had one final run, closing within 69-67 with 1:22
left on a 3-pointer by Sean Marshall.
But the Spartans then showed their ability at the free throw
Jared Dudley had 23 points for the Eagles, while Marshall had
16. Smith had nine rebounds and Boston College finished with a
32-25 advantage on the boards.
"We played well in spurts and I thought we hurt them with our
transition game," Izzo said. "We weren't rebounding well enough
to get any breaks going in the first half. Rebounding is our
Achilles' heel right now."
Skinner said the Spartans' second-half shooting performance came
through a number of factors.
"Our lack of size, foul trouble and great execution on their
part," he said. "We did not defend as well as we needed to and
they made a point of attacking the basket."
Saint Joseph's beat Kansas 70-67 in the opener of the
doubleheader at Madison Square Garden that raises money for the V
Foundation which was started in the memory of Jim Valvano, the
former coach at North Carolina State, and provides funding for