Through the first three games of the 2016-17, it’s evident that the injuries to both Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter are having a big impact on the Michigan State Spartans.
Carter, a graduate transfer from the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, and Schilling are both recovering from injuries sustained in the offseason, and the lack of size in the middle has been an issue.
While both are recovering, Kenny Goins has been logging increased minutes, and appearing in the starting lineup.
On Sunday afternoon, against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, Goins was back in the starting lineup. The Eagles were without a star forward of their own, as Marc-Eddy Norelia was not in the lineup due to injury.
Michigan State entered the game as 14-point favourites, but the game came down to the final possession. The final play will be in the headlines for a while, as the shot clock operator looked to have started the clock on an inbounds play for the Eagles before anyone touched the ball.
Antravious Simmons rushed his shot at the buzzer, and it fell by the wayside, and Michigan State fans everywhere let out a collective sigh of relief.
Michigan State came away with the 78-77 win over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles inside the Breslin Center.
Fast forward to the final few minutes of the game, when things got a little crazy.
With 4:25 to play in the second half, Demetris Morant threw down a dunk that gave the Eagles a 66-64 lead over the Spartans. Shortly after, Brandon Goodwin got a layup to drop, pushing the Eagles’ lead to 4.
Miles Bridges made one of two free throws, and Eron Harris connected on a three pointer with 3:18 to play to tie the game up at 68-all.
Enter Zach Johnson for the Eagles.
Held without a point for the entire game, Johnson picked the perfect time to get on the scoreboard. With under three minutes on the clock, Johnson responded to the three ball from Harris with one of his own, putting the Eagles back ahead by three, at 71-68.
As the game ticked down, the teams would trade basket for basket, and the game was tied up at 75-all with under a minute to play. Cassius Winston made the front end of two free throws, but got his own offensive rebound off the miss. Bridges was fouled shortly thereafter, and proceeded to make both free throws to give Michigan State the 78-75 lead.
On the next trip down for the Eagles, Christian Terrell got a layup to fall that cut the deficit to 1 with 8 seconds on the clock.
After Harris missed a pair of free throws to give the Spartans a three point lead, the craziness ensued.
After the Eagles called a timeout with under three seconds to play, the shot clock operator inserted themselves into the game in an unlikely manner.
As the Eagles tried to inbound the ball almost the length of the court, a Spartans’ player got his fingers on the ball to deflect it slightly. Nobody for the Eagles had touched the ball, yet the clock started.
After a reset to 1.6 seconds, they tried it again. There was no deflection, but the clock started as soon as the ball left the inbounder’s hands. Antravious Simmons caught the ball with hardly any time left on the clock, turned and put up a desperation shot that was no good.
Florida Gulf Coast head coach Joe Dooley was irate, and for good reason. In the end, the play stood as is, and the Michigan State Spartans held on for the 78-77 win over the upset-minded Eagles.
Antravious Simmons and Brandon Goodwin each put 18 points to lead the way for the Eagles. Simmons also pulled down 12 rebounds for the double-double.
Raysean Scott, Jr. came off the bench added 14 points and 5 rebounds in the loss.
For the Spartans, Eron Harris erupted for a season-high 31 points, while going 10-of-15 from the floor, and a perfect 6-of-6 from three point range. This is the kind of production the Spartans will need from Harris moving forwards.
Miles Bridges added 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks, while Cassius Winston chipped in with 7 points and 5 assists.
The loss was the second straight for the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (1-3, 0-0) on the road against a power conference opponent. Both losses came by a combined 10 points. The Eagles will look to return to their winning ways on Wednesday when they take on the Binghamton Bearcats.
With the win, the Michigan State Spartans (2-2, 0-0) continue to build positive momentum after their two losses to open the season. They now head to Nassau, Bahamas for the start of the Battle 4 Atlantis, which kicks off on Wednesday. The Spartans take on the St. John’s Red Storm in the opening round.
– T. Bennett