LAHAINA, Hawaii -- During the afternoon, Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker put on a dominating 31-point performance to save his team from an upset. At night, Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas did the same to help hold off a spunky Chaminade team, 82-74, in the first round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
Lucas had a career-high 28 points against the underdog Division II host, which led for much of the first 25 minutes of the game. Draymond Green added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans.
But it was Lucas' relentless drives to the basket, combined with his ability to get out in transition after some stifling defense, that fueled a second-half surge that put MSU into the semifinal round against UConn on Tuesday.
Chaminade rode a wave of hot shooting from guard Steven Bennett (20 points, 10 assists) and some dominant play in the middle from USC transfer Mamadou Diarra (16 points, 11 reb, 5 blocks) to keep things close in front of a vocal hometown crowd.
The Silverswords are the Washington Generals of this tournament. Their all-time record here is 5-71. But they are known for a huge upset win against Ralph Sampson's No. 1 Virginia team in the early 80s and tried their best to recreate that magic tonight before running out of gas at the end of the game.
For Michigan State, this victory will come with its fair share of concerns. Senior guard Durrell Summers pulled a classic disappearing act for much of the game and the team's big men struggled to score or defend in the paint against Diarra. The Spartans were out rebounded by the Silverswords 31-28.
"I was disappointed in our defense and rebounding more than anything," coach Tom Izzo said. "Thank God for Kalin and Draymond. I don't think he [Lucas] took a bad shot all night. We should be pushing the ball more. If you don't rebound the ball, you don't push it. As we say in any tournament, it's about surviving and advancing."
Next up for Michigan State is a spunky UConn team led by Kemba Walker and a physical inside presence, Alex Oriakhi. The Walker-Lucas matchup should be a terrific point guard battle between two of the top veteran college point guards in the country.
"He's a great player," Lucas said of Walker after the game. "I'm looking forward to it. We have to keep six eyes on him."
If Oriakhi can control the glass the way Diarra did, the Huskies should be able to keep it competitive against the second-ranked team in the country.