The best kept secret in the state of Michigan is Oakland’s Kay Felder. The guard is leading the nation in assists and is second in points per game. He won’t be much of a secret for long. He made his presence felt early, going off for 21 points in the first half.

The moment Denzel Valentine went under the knife, the Spartans were put on upset alert. The Grizzlies are no slouch, having thumped Washington on the road by 14 just days before. Oh, and Felder put up 38 in that one. Gulp.

MSU struggled in just about every part of the game early on. They picked up five fouls in the first three minutes of the game and quickly found themselves behind. Valentine’s absence was felt in a big way. The offense looked disjointed and confused. Oakland pounced on the hesitation and scored 17 points off 10 turnovers.

“We absolutely sucked in every facet of the game,” said Matt Costello.

Oakland caught fire midway through the first, extending their lead to 34-19 with just over seven minutes left. The pro-MSU crowd finally woke up when the Spartans went on a 9-0 run, forcing Coach Kampe to call timeout. But that’s as close as State would get in the first half. The Grizzlies led 50-37 at the break.

“It was a war out there,” said Kampe. “I thought we were as physical as they were.”

The second half was a much different story. Oakland stumbled out of the gate shooting 1-8 in the opening minutes. The Spartans meanwhile hit 71 percent of their shots and cut the deficit to six within five minutes.

Foul trouble plagued both teams in the second half. Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis picked up their fourth fouls midway through the second half, leaving Kenny Goins and a recovering Gavin Schilling to man the paint. Oakland couldn’t capitalize and let the lead slowly slip away.

Bryn Forbes played out of his mind in the absence of his Sexton teammate. He buried a three with nine minutes left to give MSU all the momentum and their first lead since the opening minutes of the game. The pace of the game turned frantic after that, with both teams trading blows, and technical fouls. Both teams shot a combined 100 free throws in the game.

The Spartan lead was trimmed to two with just under a minute remaining when Harris drew a foul driving to the basket. He buried both to extend the lead back to four. The very next possession. Felder hit an acrobatic three in the corner to breathe life back into his squad with 17.1 seconds to go.

After nearly turning the ball over going over half court, Costello went to the line and rattled home one of two to make it a two-point game. Felder drew a foul driving to the hoop with 4.9 to go and a chance to tie the game. And tie the game he did, sending the contest to overtime.

“I always give Oakland credit because they always seem to play us so tough, but this year he’s got a very, very good team,” said Izzo. “I’m gonna be mad at them and him if they don’t get to the tournament because this is a tournament team there’s no question in my mind.”

Overtime was tightly contested as expected. The referees dominated the game with touchy fouls left and right. Goins fouled out on a highly-questionable call with 2:27 left, and the ensuing free throws gave Oakland a one-point lead.

Davis had the post game running to perfection in the overtime period. His layup gave the Spartans back the lead with 49.1 seconds left. Felder fouled out on the ensuing possession after drawing a controversial charge call. Forbes continued his white-hot shooting by drilling a three from the corner to make it a 96-91 game. Free throws decided the rest of the game, and the Spartans survived 99-93.

“A lot of people as I’m walking off are saying hey great, no it’s not great,” said Kampe. “I don’t perceive us as a nice little story anymore.”

Forbes had the best game of his career, putting up 32 points on 7-9 shooting from deep. Harris also turned in the best performance in a Spartan uniform with 27 points of his own. Oakland’s Felder led all scorers with 37 points and nine assists.

“We’re never going to be Michigan or Michigan State but we want to be at that level and we want the respect to be at that level and to do that you have to beat them,” said Kampe. “When you don’t beat them you’re just a nice little story.”

With the holidays right around the corner, Coach Izzo and his Spartans get some needed rest and practice time.

“We need to get back at it and practice like old times and get after somebody a little bit and that’s what we’re gonna do,” said Izzo.

MSU has a week off before heading to Iowa City to play the Hawkeyes next Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

Originally posted: http://impact89fm.org/sports/spartans-outlast-grizzlies-at-the-palace/

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