INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The state of Michigan has found a way to end.
The search for Kentucky No. 4 continues — even with consensus international of the year Oscar Tshiebwe back in action.
Malik Hall forced two overtimes with dunks from inbounds games, Mady Sissoko delivered two game-changing slams late in the second overtime, and Michigan State rallied to beat No. 4 Kentucky 86-77 on Tuesday night.
“I just saw (coach) Tom (Izzo) in the hallway and said you were more prepared for the end than we were.” said Kentucky’s coach John Calipari.
The Spartans (2-1) were ready, thanks in part to what they endured on Friday when they lost by a point to No. 2 Gonzaga on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
But they also got some help when last season’s consensus international of the year Oscar Tshiebwe fouled late in the first overtime after scoring 22 points and 18 rebounds (2-1) in his season debut for the Wildcats.
Joey Hauser had 23 points, Hall had 20 and Sissoko had a career-high 16 points with eight rebounds for the Spartans, who spent most of the second half catching up.
Sissoko changed the tenor of the game with his game-changing alley-oop slam at 1:45 in the second OT.
“There’s nothing like seeing Mady go for a lob because you know it’s going to be a dunk.” said Hauser.
And with Tshiebwe on the bench, Michigan State finished off a 13-1 win over Kentucky, the final blow coming in the last minute with another Sissoko dunk.
“Yes, I set it up. I said, “Let’s just dunk the damn ball.” said Izzo sarcastically. “I probably like dunks because I never could.”
Kentucky led 62-60 towards the end of the regulation when Tshiebwe Hall lost on an inbound pass. Hall took advantage by diving with 3.7 seconds left.
“Believe them, they did what they had to do” Said Calipari. “But the (first) out of bounds game, we never do that. We just left him.”
It happened again in first overtime when Hall broke free as the Spartans moved the ball into the frontcourt. He drove to the dunk to tie it 71-71 by 1.4 seconds.
After Cason Wallace’s 3-pointer put Kentucky 76-73 early in overtime, the Spartans blocked Kentucky’s shooters and pulled away.
Michigan State: Izzo’s teams always seem to end up stronger than they started, and if these Spartans do that again this season, they could be scary. Despite poor early shooting, they overcome a slow start and knock out a top-five team.
Kentucky: The Wildcats returned to the venue after their most recent loss, a loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Saint Peter’s in March, and exited the game with the same result. Yes, they are tall, long, athletic and defend well. But they need to develop a finishing touch.
Michigan State: The Spartans were unranked in the AP Top 25 last season and again this week. They will probably enter the poll after two strong performances against the top 5 opponents.
Kentucky: Caliparis’ squad didn’t need Tshiebwe last week. He missed the first two games while recovering from knee surgery. But when he’s on the ground, the Wildcats are clearly one of the best teams in the nation. They could slip a few places after that loss but have a chance to bounce back – if they can beat Gonzaga on the No. 2 road this weekend.
HE IS BACK
Dick Vitale returned to ESPN’s show Tuesday night after his battle with cancer. Vitale missed most of last season when his signature voice was marred by lymphoma and melanoma.
Sitting in the middle of Wildcats fans, he opened the program by thanking everyone who had sent texts and letters of support and acknowledging the famous words of his late friend Jim Valvano – “Do not give up. Never give up” – inspired him to persevere.
HE SAID IT
“This is a really good team and it’s going to be a great team,” said Izzo. “So all Kentucky fans, don’t jump off the ship. I told John it’s illegal to have that many seniors in Kentucky.”
Michigan State: host Villanova on Friday.
Kentucky: hosts South Carolina State on Thursday.
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