A.J. Hoggard hit the go-ahead free throws with 30.3 seconds left and Michigan State scored the game’s final nine points to push past No. 22 Connecticut 64-60 in Thursday’s Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals.
Gabe Brown scored 16 points for the Spartans (5-1), who blew a 14-point lead before halftime and shot just 32% after the break.
But Michigan State did enough to take back momentum after the Huskies had gone up 60-55 with 1:41 left and finally secure a spot in Friday’s championship game.
It was another tense finish for both teams after their first-round games had plenty of late-game drama – including two extra periods for the Huskies in a draining 115-109 win against No. 19 Auburn. But Michigan State’s defense came up with multiple critical stops late, holding the Huskies to 1-for-9 shooting in the final 3 minutes.
The final one came with the Huskies (5-1) getting a chance to tie. But after a long stretch of dribbling, Jalen Gaffney managed to fire up a tough straightaway 3 that fell short of everything.
No. 6 Baylor 69, VCU 61: Matthew Mayer scored 15 points to help sixth-ranked Baylor hold off VCU 69-61 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Freshman Kendall Brown added 14 points for the reigning national champion Bears (6-0), who had to clean up a mistake-filled first half and keep the Rams at arm’s distance throughout the second half.
Baylor led 29-27 and came out of the break with nine straight points. That included a five-point possession with Brown making two free throws after being hit on a flagrant foul by Levi Stockard III, then Mayer finding Flo Thamba with a lane-to-lane pass for a score and a three-point play.
Iona 72, No. 10 Alabama 68: Nelly Joseph and Walter Clayton Jr. made key free throws in the final seconds to lift Iona over No. 10 Alabama 72-68 in an opening-round game at the ESPN Events Invitational.
No. 4 Kansas 71, North Texas 59: Ochai Agbaji had 18 points and Christian Braun added 16 as No. 4 Kansas beat North Texas 71-59 in the first round of the ESPN Events Invitational.
Wisconsin 61, St. Mary’s 55: Johnny Davis scored 20 points, Tyler Wahl added 18 and a key block, and Wisconsin outlasted Saint Mary’s 61-55 Wednesday to win the Maui Invitational.
The Badgers (5-1) had reached the Maui title game once in four previous tries, losing to North Carolina in 2016. They had a fight on their hands against the Gaels, battling through a physical second half filled with collisions and tumbling players.
Wisconsin delivered the final blows, the biggest Wahl’s jumper and two free throws after blocking Dan Fotu’s shot with 30 seconds left.
Saint Mary’s (6-1) nearly made its first Maui Invitational appearance a memorable one, keeping the Badgers within reach into the final minute. Not being able to finish it off hurts, but the Gaels appear to be back after being relegated to the NIT last season.