The No. 12 Michigan State men's basketball team fell to No. 18 Alabama in the opening round of the Phil Knight Invitational, 81-70, on Thursday night in Portland, Oregon.
The Spartans drop 3-2 on the season, while the Crimson Tide remains undefeated at 5-0.
The game started out in favor of Alabama. Turnovers plagued the Spartans, with forward Joey Hauser committing two on back-to-back possessions.
Alabama sophomore center Charles Bediako took advantage with two alley-oop dunks, and a third dunk from freshman forward Noah Clowney helped stake the Tide to an early 6-2 lead. The narrative changed with the snap of the fingers.
MSU was short-handed, and it was evident. With senior forward Malik Hall out for the next three or so weeks due to foot injury, they were missing a key scorer who played a big role in the Spartans' 86-77 victory over Kentucky in the Champions Classic on Nov. 15, and MSU's 73-71 victory over Villanova on Nov. 18. He was joined by sophomore guard Jaden Akins, who aggravated a foot injury that forced him to have surgery in September.
Alabama went into halftime with a 42-37 lead, and extended it throughout the final 20 minutes. The Tide's lead ballooned to as many as 18 with 9:17 left in the game.
MSU shot 39% from the field, including 29% from beyond the arc. Their 11 turnovers allowed Alabama to capitalize with an additional 18 points.
The Spartans were led by senior guard Tyson Walker with 21 points and junior guard A.J. Hoggard with 18 points, and Alabama by freshman forward Brandon Miller with 24 points.
Michigan State moves on to play Oregon on Friday. Tipoff is at midnight.
(Sara Tidwell is a freelance writer.)