Nov. 23, 2013
A little while later, coach Tom Izzo looked at a scoresheet and marveled at how many of Michigan State's baskets come from assists.
"It's sick, it's a good sick," Izzo said. "That shows you how unselfish and the kind of guys I got."
With an all-around performance Friday night, the top-ranked Spartans routed Virginia Tech 96-77 in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Payne had a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds, Keith Appling had 13 points and seven assists for Michigan State, which had 26 assists and averages nearly 22 a game.
"I'm not worried," Harris said. "It's been a while since I've shot this badly. But it's not like I was missing badly."
Michigan State (5-0) will play Oklahoma in the final Saturday night. The Sooners rallied to beat Seton Hall 86-85 in the first semifinal.
Hokies senior Jarrell Eddie had 23 points - 17 in the first half. Adam Smith scored 27 as Virginia Tech (3-2) fell to 4-8 all-time against teams ranked No. 1.
After struggling against Columbia and Portland State in their two games since beating then-No. 1 Kentucky, the Spartans appeared as if they put their early troubles behind them in jumping out to a quick five-point lead.
But Eddie and the Hokies came back, even going up 28-27 with 7:09 left in the half on Adam Smith's 3-pointer - Virginia Tech was 6 for 9 on 3s for the half.
"We got off to a good start and hit them first and then they hit us back and we didn't' have an answer," Hokies coach James Johnson said.
That's putting it lightly.
Dunks. Long 3s. Inside and out, Michigan State dominated. Payne hit a 3 with 2 seconds left in the half to make it 46-33, his 20th point of the half - and leaving one final message that the past two games were not the norm for this powerhouse squad.
"We're just trying to have a lot fun," Payne said. "We're just making shots. That was a big difference. We were pushing the ball on transition. We rebounded better. That's it."
Izzo credited his squad's defense for turning things around in the middle of the first half, and Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes and 17 overall. Freshman forward Devin Wilson turned it over four times to lead the Hokies.
"I think we were loose with the ball and the nerves of the freshman hurt us a little bit," Johnson said.
Eddie hit a 3 with 19:05 to go in the game. But Virginia Tech didn't score again until he made another 3 more than 4 minutes later. By then, the Spartans opened up a 20-point lead.'
Payne and Appling hit 3s, Gavin Schilling had a tip-in and Dawson made alley-oop off a pass from Harris after a steal to make it 69-39, finishing the play with a "Whoop!" after he missed a big dunk attempt earlier and was shaken up.
Payne finished 10 of 15 from the field, 4 of 6 on 3s. He also had three assists and three blocks.
"He's very efficient right now," Izzo said of Payne, who returned for a senior season rather than test the NBA draft. "I hope we start appreciating guys who stay around school and get better."
Even redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski got in on the action. He scored his first points in college, making a 3-pointer with 1:04 to go.
Payne made two free throws with 16:48 to go in the first half to put Michigan State up 10-5, but Eddie made two free throws, freshman captain Ben Emelgou hit a 3 and C.J. Barksdale scored to put the Hokies up 12-10.
Eddie's free throw with 9:57 left in the half gave Virginia Tech its biggest lead at six. Smith's 3 put Tech up 28-27 then Michigan State went on a 16-5 run to open the 13-point halftime lead.
After trading baskets to start the half, with Eddie making a 3-pointer, Michigan State ran off the next 14 points to the delight of the small but boisterous crowd.
It was the Hokies' first game in Brooklyn since losing to LIU-Brooklyn by 20 points on the Blackbirds home court.