No. 3 Michigan State, UCLA hope to escape Hawaii with a win

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No. 3 Michigan State, UCLA hope to escape Hawaii with a win

After suffering opening-round upset losses in the Maui Invitational, UCLA and No. 3-ranked Michigan State meet on the final day in consolation bracket play with a chance to finish the tournament above .500.

Michigan State (4-2) dropped its matchup with Virginia Tech on Monday, then needed to rally late to avoid disaster on Tuesday against Georgia. A 28-point Spartans lead in the second half whittled down to two in the waning minutes before pulling away down the stretch.

“I would like all the people in Hawaii and everybody else to see, (Cassius Winston) was a shell of himself today,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo told ESPN following Monday’s loss. “No excuses for me. I did the poor job. But I couldn’t do what that kid has done, no way. And he just looked tired the whole time. I think (it is) the mental stress that he’s going through.”

Winston scored seven points on just 2-of-8 shooting from the floor against Virginia Tech, but rebounded against Georgia with 28 points and eight assists. Winston was critically for Michigan State late in the game, virtually matching Bulldogs freshman and projected top 5 NBA draft pick Anthony Edwards in his 37-point effort.

The torrid offensive pace at which Michigan State played in its 93-85 win over Georgia stands in stark contrast to the offensive inconsistency UCLA endured for about 30 of 40 minutes Tuesday against Chaminade.

The Bruins (5-2) went ice cold from the floor in the final 10 minutes of Monday’s 78-63 loss to BYU and struggled on defense.

“We played for about 30 minutes strong on defense and then we let off the gas,” Jules Bernard told the Los Angeles Times. “So it’s just about sustaining our effort on defense and focusing on what teams do, especially a team like BYU that runs its offense really well.”

Tuesday’s game followed the exact opposite script. UCLA scored just 39 points by the under-12 minutes media timeout remaining Tuesday against Chaminade. UCLA finally came alive in the last 11 minutes, however, scoring 35 points.

Forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. provided much-needed energy both on offense and on the glass, recording his first career double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

The common thread for UCLA in its first two losses — and in a tight, opening-night win over Long Beach State on Nov. 6 — has been its inability to defend the 3-pointer. Both Hofstra and BYU shot 50 percent from long range against the Bruins.

Conversely, Michigan State’s 5-of-9 shooting from deep in the second half proved pivotal against Georgia. Winston and Aaron Henry, two of Michigan State’s top offensive options, shoot 36.1 and 50 percent from behind the arc.

Xavier Tillman’s struggled from long range during the season at 21.4 percent, but he hit a critical 3-pointer late against Georgia.

First-year UCLA coach Mick Cronin said in his postgame press conference following the BYU loss that the Bruins are still finding an identity. That’s particularly true on the offensive end. Redshirt freshman guard Tyger Campbell’s been a consistent ball distributor, but scoring production has varied dramatically from game-to-game.

Bernard led with 15 points against BYU, for example, but scored just two on 0-of-5 shooting from the floor against Chaminade. The inconsistency is a byproduct of a young lineup with a new coach.

Michigan State, in contrast, opened the season ranked No. 1 with a veteran lineup returning from last year’s Final Four roster under 25-year head coach Izzo.

–Field Level Media

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