A matchup between a Georgia team loaded with freshman phenoms and third-ranked Michigan State on the second day of the Maui Invitational might not come as a surprise. That the two teams will meet on the consolation side of the bracket, however, is unexpected.
Michigan State (3-2) could not rally from a late 10-point deficit on Monday en route to a 71-66 opening-round loss to Virginia Tech.
Georgia (4-1), meanwhile, trailed by double digits virtually the entire way in an 80-61 loss to Dayton.
“We played behind, which is the last thing you want to do, and we weren’t aggressive with our hands,” Bulldogs coach Tom Crean said.
The surprising outcomes on Monday set up a reunion on Tuesday for Crean and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. Crean was a Spartans assistant from 1995-99, the first four seasons of Izzo’s illustrious tenure.
“I still have a great appreciation for all he did for me,” Izzo said to the Lansing State Journal of Crean. “He really helped me getting this program going. I thought we were an incredible group together, and that was a big part of our success.”
Michigan State reached the first of eight Final Fours under Izzo during Crean’s last season as an assistant there. He moved on to Marquette as the head coach the following season before returning to the Big Ten Conference at Indiana in 2008-09. Crean coached the Hoosiers through 2016-17.
Tuesday’s matchup is the first between the two former colleagues since Crean landed at Georgia last season. Crean’s first campaign with the Bulldogs ended at 11-21, but signing a recruiting class that 247Sports ranked No. 10 in the nation buoyed expectations heading into 2019-20.
Freshman Anthony Edwards, a five-star prospect, was named 1st Team All-SEC in the preseason. He came into the Maui Invitational scoring 19.3 points per game, but managed just six on 2-of-10 shooting in the Bulldogs’ Monday loss.
Woeful shooting — the Bulldogs went 4 of 16 from behind the 3-point arc — and 23 turnovers doomed Georgia to its lowest scoring performance of the season.
Michigan State opened the season ranked No. 1, but lost to Georgia’s Southeastern Conference counterpart, Kentucky, on opening night.
The Spartans won three straight games heading into Monday but could not overcome 16 turnovers against the Hokies. Forward Xavier Tillman, coming off a career-high, 21-point performance in a Nov. 18 blowout of Charleston Southern, scored nine points and grabbed 14 rebounds against Virginia Tech. But he shot only 4 of 10 and committed five turnovers.
A better offensive performance from Tillman might be in order against a Georgia defense that struggled on the interior Monday. Dayton big man Obi Toppin shot 9 of 11 en route to 25 points against the Bulldogs.
“We were not good at defending the post,” Crean said. “We did not do anything we needed to do to Obi Toppin to start the game.”
Toppin scored 12 of Dayton’s first 14 points to set the tone for the game as the Flyers jumped to a 14-2 lead. On the season, Georgia opponents are shooting 50.6 percent from inside the 3-point arc.
–Field Level Media