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NEW YORK – Virginia Tech coach James Johnson knows when his team is overmatched.
This was one of those nights.
Adreian Payne had a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds, Keith Appling had 13 points and seven assists, and top-ranked Michigan State beat Virginia Tech 96-77 on Friday night in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
"We got off to a good start and hit them first and then they hit us back, and we didn't have an answer," Johnson said. "Our youth and depth in the backcourt showed a little tonight."
The Hokies (3-2) will play Seton Hall in the consolation game Saturday night. Michigan State (5-0) plays Oklahoma in the final.
Hokies senior Jarrell Eddie had 23 points — 17 in the first half. Adam Smith scored 27 as Virginia Tech fell to 4-8 all-time against teams ranked No. 1.
"He played a really good game," Johnson said. "He kept us in the game early on in the first half and let us establish that six-point lead in the beginning of the game."
After struggling against Columbia and Portland State in their two games since beating then-No. 1 Kentucky, the Spartans appeared as if they put their early troubles behind them in jumping out to a quick five-point lead.
But Eddie and the Hokies came back, taking their final lead at 28-27 with 7:09 left in the half on Adam Smith's 3-pointer — Virginia Tech was 6 for 9 on 3s for the half.
That was it.
Dunks. Long 3s. Inside and out, Michigan State dominated. Payne hit a 3 with 2 seconds left in the half to make it 46-33, his 20th point of the half — and leaving one final message that the past two games were not the norm for this powerhouse squad.
"We're just trying to have a lot fun," Payne said. "We're just making shots. That was a big difference. We were pushing the ball on transition. We rebounded better. That's it."
Gary Harris scored 19 for the Spartans despite shooting just 2 for 12 on 3-pointers and Branden Dawson had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans.
"I'm not worried," Harris said. "It's been a while since I've shot this badly. But it's not like I was missing badly."
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo credited his squad's defense for turning things around in the middle of the first half, and Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes and 17 overall. Freshman forward Devin Wilson turned it over four times to lead the Hokies.
"I think we were loose with the ball and the nerves of the freshman hurt us a little bit," Johnson said.
Eddie hit a 3 with 19:05 to go in the game. But Virginia Tech didn't score again until he made another 3 more than 4 minutes later. By then, the Spartans opened up a 20-point lead.
Payne and Appling hit 3s, Gavin Schilling had a tip-in and Dawson made alley oop off a pass from Harris after a steal to make it 69-39, finishing the play with a "Whoop!" after he missed a big dunk attempt earlier and was shaken up.
Payne finished 10 of 15 from the field, 4 of 6 on 3s. He also had three assists and three blocks.
"He's very efficient right now," Izzo said of Payne, who returned for a senior season rather than test the NBA draft. "I hope we start appreciating guys who stay around school and get better."
Even redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski got in on the action. He scored his first points in college, making a 3-pointer with 1:04 to go.
Payne made two free throws with 16:48 to go in the first half to put Michigan State up 10-5, but Eddie made two free throws, freshman captain Ben Emelgou hit a 3 and C.J. Barksdale scored to put the Hokies up 12-10.
Eddie's free throw with 9:57 left in the half gave Virginia Tech its biggest lead at six. Smith's 3 put Tech up 28-27 then Michigan State went on a 16-5 run to open the 13-point halftime lead.
After trading baskets to start the half, with Eddie making a 3-pointer, Michigan State ran off the next 14 points to the delight of the small but boisterous crowd.
It was the Hokies' first game in Brooklyn since losing to LIU-Brooklyn by 20 points on the Blackbirds home court.