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No. 20 Baylor rallies past No. 24 Michigan State

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The Sports Xchange

Baylor once again proved to be a second-half team at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament at Paradise Island, Bahamas on Thursday.

This time though, the Bears didn't wait as long to start their second-half surge as they did during a first-round win over VCU on Wednesday.

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Instead of waiting until there was eight minutes left in the game against VCU to mount their charge, the Bears did so right from the start of the second half on Thursday against Michigan State, turning a halftime deficit into a lopsided 73-58 win in a tournament semifinal.

No. 20 Baylor trailed 33-30 at halftime but outscored No. 24 Michigan State 43-25 in the second half to improve to 5-0 on the season and advance to Friday's championship game against No. 10 Louisville.

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"We were able to get stops and get some transition buckets," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "When we are able to get in transition and get some easy ones, that loosens things up. In the first half, they were getting transition baskets and we weren't getting back. I thought first when you score, it is easier to get back. Second of all, you get stops and transitions, it's easier to score. It all kind of works together."

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Freshman Miles Bridges scored 15 points to lead Michigan State (3-3), which lost its third game of the season against a ranked opponent following earlier losses to Arizona and Kentucky. The Spartans play in the third-place game against Wichita State.

The Bears quickly erased their halftime deficit in the opening minutes of the second half, going on a 12-2 run to start the half and take a 42-35 lead with 16:18 remaining.

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Baylor didn't let up from there, using its size advantage and hot shooting to build its lead to as many as 20 points on two different occasions in the final three minutes.

Baylor shot 54.8 percent from the field in the second half (17 of 31) and finished 30 of 65 from the field for the game (46.2 percent).

"Our guys, we went man (defensively) and they run a bunch of great man sets," Drew said. "Without having much prep, we were a little concerned if we would be able to guard all their actions because it is early in the year. I thought our guys really got after it defensively."

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Junior forward Johnathan Motley scored 20 of his game-high 26 points in the first half and junior center Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Bears.

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All of Lual Acuil's points came in the second-half dominance for the Bears, who outrebounded Michigan State, 37-30.

"We are bigger than them in the paint and think we are tougher so we used that to our advantage," Motley said.

"We didn't make the shots I think we could and should make, and consequently that gets you sooner or later," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said during his postgame show on the Spartan Sports Network. "I don't know if our legs a little bit weary because we have been shooting the ball well up until the last week or two."

Michigan State had a good first half, leading by as many as 10 points at 26-16 with 7:58 left until halftime.

But Baylor cut the deficit to three at halftime and took control in the second half.

"We didn't look very sharp in the second half," Izzo said. "Maybe we are wearing down a little bit. We'll regroup and see what we can do."

NOTES: This was the first ever meeting in men's basketball between Michigan State and Baylor, although the schools had a couple of other noteworthy athletic contests. Baylor beat Michigan State to win the women's basketball national title in 2005, and Michigan State beat Baylor in the 2015 Cotton Bowl on a last-minute touchdown... Michigan State failed to advance to the championship game of a preseason tournament for the fourth straight season. The Spartans advanced to the championship games of the 2013 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the 2014 Orlando Classic and the 2015 Wooden Legacy... Baylor achieved its seventh 5-0 start to a season since 2007... Baylor is now 14-14 against ranked opponents over the past two seasons and is 2-0 against ranked teams this season after routing Oregon earlier this year, 66-49... Both Baylor and Michigan State entered the game in the unusual position this early in the season of having a common opponent, Florida Gulf Coast. Baylor beat FGCU 81-72 at home last Friday, while Michigan State outlasted FGCU at home last Sunday, 78-77... Michigan State senior guard Eron Harris entered the game averaging 21.3 points in his previous three games after averaging 4.5 points in the first two games, against Arizona and Kentucky. He finished with three points on Thursday.

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