The No. 1 Michigan State basketball team (6-0) continued their winning ways Saturday night, as they defeated the Oklahoma Sooners (4-1), 87-76, taking the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic title along the way.
Senior point guard Keith Appling led the Spartans in scoring with a career high 27 points, while sophomore guard Gary Harris added 21 points and junior Branden Dawson contributed 18 points and 10 rebounds to the effort.
For Oklahoma, senior Cameron Clark had himself a huge game. The 6-foot-7 guard put the ball in the basket all night long, finishing with 32 points (11-18 shooting), and 7 rebounds while guards Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield finished the game with 15 and 13 points respectively.
In the opening ten minutes of the game, Oklahoma, coming off of a stunning come-from-behind 86-85 victory over Seton Hall the night before, certainly held the upper-hand in the early going of the game, as they jumped out to a 22-11 lead with 10:51 to go in the half.
However, moments later, Appling nailed a 3-pointer assisted by Harris to close the lead to eight, 22-14. From there, Michigan State would outscore Oklahoma 34-9 for the rest of the half, and would take a 45-31 lead into the break.
In the second half, Michigan State came out and continued to play like the No. 1 team in the country, at one point extending their lead to 16 when it was 55-39 with 17:17 to go in the game.
However, that was as big as the lead would get as Oklahoma clawed their way right back into the game, going on a 14-2 run over the next 7+ minutes, to close the Michigan State lead to four, 57-53. During the stretch, Oklahoma held Michigan State without a basket for a period of 6:23.
From there, Appling took over, scoring the next seven points for the Spartans to put them back on top by nine, 64-55 with 8:50 to go in the game.
The lead stayed right around ten for about the next five minutes, until Oklahoma once again closed the lead to four, 75-71 with 3:15 to play.
However, that was as close as they would get as Michigan State iced the game at the free throw line down the stretch to take the game and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, 87-76.
At the end of the day, it was an up-and-down victory for the Spartans. While they did show flashes of brilliance at certain points throughout the game, there were other times when their defense lacked intensity and their offense settled for long three point attempts.
Adreian Payne also had himself a rough game. A night after having quite possibly the game of his career (29 points, 10 rebounds), Payne followed it up with just a 4 point (1-6 shooting), 7 rebound performance in just 22 minutes of action due to foul trouble.
Still, a win is a win, and one bright spot to take from this game was the fact that Michigan State finally showed a little bit of domination on the glass, winning the rebounding battle, 41-33.
The win also means this MSU basketball team will likely remain the No. 1 ranked team in the country for next week when they take on Mount St. Mary’s (1-5) at home, Friday, November 29.