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updated: 11/23/2013 11:58 PM

No. 1 Michigan St. struggles to beat Oklahoma

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  • Michigan State's Branden Dawson, right, and Oklahoma's Jordan Woodard fight for control of the ball during the second half of the championship game in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Saturday in New York. Michigan State won 87-76.

      Michigan State's Branden Dawson, right, and Oklahoma's Jordan Woodard fight for control of the ball during the second half of the championship game in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Saturday in New York. Michigan State won 87-76.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Keith Appling scored 27 points and No. 1 Michigan State had all it could handle from Oklahoma before pulling away in the final minutes for an 87-76 victory Saturday night in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

Appling, who was 8 of 12 from the field, scored eight points in the final 3:04 after the Sooners got within 75-71.

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It was another unimpressive win for the Spartans (6-0) since their victory over then-No. 1 Kentucky moved them up one spot to the top of the poll. They beat Columbia and Portland but didn't pull away from either until the final minutes. They did handle Virginia Tech in the semifinals of this tournament but the championship game wasn't like that at all.

The Sooners (4-1) jumped ahead early, fell behind by as many as 18 points and then found a way to get within four points twice in the final 4 minutes before the Spartans were able to pull away once again.

Gary Harris had 21 points and Branden Dawson added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans, who shot 50 percent from the field (29 of 58), but they were 6 of 19 from 3-point range and 23 of 36 from the free throw line and committed 14 turnovers, five over their season average.

Cameron Clark had a career-high 32 points for Oklahoma, which kept chipping away at deficits after losing their big early lead.

Oklahoma made its first six and nine of its first 11 shots from the field and took a 22-11 lead. The Spartans took advantage when the Sooners finally cooled down and went up by as many as 14 points by dominating at both ends of the court. They closed the half by outscoring Oklahoma 34-9 over the final 9 minutes and were up 45-31 at halftime.

Almost everyone in Barclays Center felt it was just a matter of 20 minutes running off the clock to see how many points the Spartans would win by. The Sooners, who were down 53-35 2 minutes into the second half, weren't thinking that and they took advantage of turnovers and questionable shots to go on another big run -- this one 12-0 to get within 57-53 with 12:14 to play. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo called a timeout with 12:03 to play but that didn't help the offense.

Appling, the tournament MVP, finally ended the Spartans' 6:17 scoring drought with a three-point play with 10:01 to go and he followed an Oklahoma miss with a fast-break dunk to make it 62-53 with 9:35 left.

Oklahoma found its way to one more run to get within 73-69 and 75-71, but Appling came up with enough big plays down the stretch to keep the Spartans at No. 1 for at least one more week.

The Sooners advanced to the title game with a 7-0 run over the final 32 seconds to beat Seton Hall 87-86. The Spartans had an easier trip, riding Adreian Payne's career-high 29 points along with 10 rebounds in a 96-77 victory over Virginia Tech.

Payne had four points on 1-for-6 shooting in the championship game.

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