Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press Published 7: 07 PM ET Nov. 25, 2019 Updated 7: 57 PM ET Nov. 25, 2019
LAHAINA, Hawaii – So much for No. 3 Michigan State’s quest to win Tom Izzo’s first Maui Invitational.
The Spartans nearly made a miraculous comeback in the final 4 1/2 minutes Monday.
But they did themselves in early with turnovers, fouls and defensive breakdowns. And Virginia Tech didthemin late with clutch baskets and a 3-point assault,handing MSU A 71 – 66 losson the opening day of the Maui Invitational at Lahaina Civic Center.
“Three-point shooting and foul trouble, that’s how upsets happen,” Izzo said. “And we had both of them.”
The Spartans (3-2) now head to what previously was an anticipated matchup with former Izzo assistant Tom Crean and Georgia. Only this one will be in the losers’ bracket at 2: 30 pm Tuesday (ESPN2). And it also likely eliminates any chance the Spartans might face No. 5 Kansas.
MSU trailed 59 – 49 with 4: 36 to play, but moving Aaron Henry to point guard for the struggling Cassius Winston nearly rescued the Spartans.
Henry hit a driving layup with 3: 18 to play , set up Winston for a 3-pointer with 2: 36 left, then swooped into the lane for another bucket. After a layup by the Hokies’ Landers Nolley, Henry drilled a 3-pointer with 1: 12 left to make it a 65 – 64 deficit.
But Nolley answered with Virginia Tech’s 10 th 3-pointer of the game. Kyle Ahrens’ driving layup cut it back to within a point, but Wabisssa Bede hit 3 of 6 free throws in the final 37 .6 seconds, and Winston and Xavier Tillman each missed shots in the waning moments as the Hokies rebounded and ran out the clock to celebrate.
Winston battled foul trouble in the first half and never found a flow in the second half until it was too late, making just 2 of 8 shots and finishing with seven points, two assists and three turnovers. He was scoreless in the first half, sitting nearly the final 10 minutes with two fouls , and got five of his points in the final 3: 33.
Henry led MSU with 18 points and added five rebounds and three assists.
However, the Spartans committed 16 turnovers that led to 20 points for the Hokies.
Xavier Tillman had nine points and a game-high 14 rebounds, but he also committed five giveaways and went just 4 of (from the field.)
Nolley scored 22 to lead Virginia Tech, one of five Hokies in double digits.
Winston went to the bench midway through the first half with two fouls and no points, sitting the final 9: 56.
That disrupted the rhythm the Spartans came out with during a hot start in which they had made 7 of 11 shots early, though they did not lead by more than four points in the half.
Foster Loyer struggled with operating the offense in two stints, and Rocket Watts hit a pair of deep 3-pointers but made freshman mistakes while running the point for a 5-minute stretch before Loyer replaced him in the last minute .
Watts had four of MSU’s 11 turnovers at halftime. Those giveaways led to 12 points for the Hokies, who also hit five first-half 3- pointers to take a 32 – 28 lead to halftime .
Late in the second half, after Virginia Tech went up by 10, Izzo turned to Henry to run the point. The sophomore nearly rallied MSU to a victory with the ball in his hands and Winston playing off the ball.
Credit Virginia Tech’s defense for a lot of that as well, as the Hokies continually dropped four or all five players into defense after a shot to prevent MSU from getting out and running in transition.
Nolley said it was part of Virginia Tech’s scouting report and strategy to take not allow Winston and the Spartans to get out and run. They managed just eight fast-break points and had just 13 assists on their 24 baskets.
“The only chance we had,” first-year Hokies coach Mike Young said. “If that game is in the 80 s, they blow our doors off. ”
MSU had a height advantage in the paint and used it early, though the Spartans also missed a number of easy looks inside and struggled catching the ball. MSU outscored Virginia Tech 30 – 22 in the paint and had a 17 – 6 edge in second-chance points.
The Hokies face Dayton in the surprising winner’s bracket game.