NEW YORK — Michigan State had a chance to run away with this.
It led 23-14, with 8 minutes until halftime, Virginia struggling with its confidence in the moment – tight and unable to hit shots.
Then, in transition, Kenny Kaminski and Adreian Payne botched a switch on Cavaliers guard Joe Harris, who promptly buried an open 3. Virginia woke up in that moment, as did its crowd, and MSU was no longer in control.
The Spartans lead this game 31-27 because, as they showed against Harvard, they aren’t scared to take a punch. Gary Harris’ old-fashioned 3-point play, on a muscled bucket, stopped the bleeding.
Dawson’s aggression offensively led to another late score, before a terrific final defensive possession.
This could have been easier, with a couple more stops and scores midway through the half. MSU has shown, however, it can win a grinder. It’s in one.