Spartans Falter in Second Half, Lose to Baylor in Battle 4 Atlantis

Just 15 hours after Wednesday’s first round victory over St. John’s, No. 24 Michigan State dropped their Battle 4 Atlantis semifinal game on Thursday to No. 20 Baylor, 73-58. The Bears will advance to the championship game in the three-games-in-three-days tournament being being played in the Bahamas. The Spartans will settle for Friday’s third place game.

Michigan State had no second half answers for Baylor after playing a competitive and tight first half.

Despite the quick turnaround from their first round game, the Spartans came out strong, working to a 25-16 lead. They played loose and free, running in transition at every given opportunity.

During the first half, the Spartans spread the ball around, assisting on 11 of their 12 baskets and getting scores from eight different players. Their 33-30 halftime lead was led by freshman phenom Miles Bridges’ seven points, followed by Matt McQuaid with six.

The shot clock became an issue later in the half for the Spartans, who had eight turnovers before the break. Still, the Spartans shot well over Baylor’s zone defense, going 6-for-13 from three-point range before the break.

Michigan State simply could not handle Baylor big man Johnathan Motley, who notched 20 of his team’s 30 first half points. Motley finished with 26 points on 12-of-22 shooting, dominating Kenny Goins and Bridges down low all game.

Baylor fought back quick to start the second half, racing out with a 12-2 run to take a 42-35 lead. That lead quickly ballooned to 51-41 and then 62-45, as the Spartans struggled to create any offense outside of Bridges, who finished with 15 points. Baylor ran the floor and dominated down low throughout the game, but especially in the second half.

As the game began to get out of hand, Spartans coach Tom Izzo was called for his second technical foul in his last three games. Evidently unhappy with the referees, who called a very loose game (only 23 fouls combined—eight of which on Baylor), Izzo let the officials know when he disagreed with the lack of many calls.

The Bears were led in the second half by forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr., who scored all 14 of his points in the second half, shooting 6-for-7 from the field. As the Spartans tried to keep an eye on Motley, his fellow forward took over.

Baylor also took care of the ball all game, only totaling seven turnovers to the Spartans’ 14. The paint play was dominated all day by the bigger Bears, who had 44 points in the paint to the Spartans’ 22.

Michigan State will play in the third place game Friday against Wichita State, who lost to No. 10 Louisville 62-52 on the other side of the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket. The third place game will tip off at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2, with the championship game between Louisville and Baylor tipping off a half hour after that game’s completion.