Dec. 6, 2005
NEW YORK (AP) - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was quick to put himself in the running for the understatements of the young college basketball season.
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 Ten.
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 4 1/2 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 line.
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 cancer research.