EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Dalton Knecht had 28 points and Jordan Gainey scored his 20th and final point on a free throw with 1.9 seconds left, helping No. 9 Tennessee hold on to beat No. 4 Michigan State 89-88 on Sunday in an exhibition game to raise funds and awareness for the Hawai’i Community Foundation Maui Strong Fund.
“It was the right thing to do,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “And, it was the right opportunity that the NCAA allowed us to do something like that.”
A.J. Hoggard made a game-tying 3-pointer with 5 seconds left to pull the Spartans into a tie, helping them rally from double-digit deficits in each half. Gainey drew a foul on the ensuing possession and made one of two free throws for the win.
Top-ranked Kansas traveled to play No. 25 Illinois, where coach Bill Self returned for the first time since leaving to lead the Jayhawks, later in the day in another charity game benefiting the same organization that is assisting in relief efforts for the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century.
“We should be allowed to play two or three of these,” Volunteers coach Rick Barnes said. “I think it does more to get us ready because of the atmosphere. We could all come together for a great cause, we could pick different causes around the country.”
Tyson Walker scored 22, Malik Hall and Hoggard had 14 each for the Spartans.
Even though the games didn't count in the standings, the matchup at the Breslin Center looked and sounded like it could have been played in the spring.
“That felt like March,” Izzo said.
Michigan State's arena was nearly filled with 14,000-plus fans paying to attend an exhibition that was not part of the season-ticket plan and all proceeds will be donated. Coaches for both teams wore Hawaiian shirts and players warmed up with Maui Strong shirts over their jerseys.
“It’s really something special,” Barnes said. "I’m glad we could do our part to let the people in Maui know we appreciate all they’ve done for college basketball.
“I’m just thankful what we did can help them in some way.”
Gainey made his first five shots, including four beyond the 3-point line, and the Vols led by 18 midway through the first half. Walker and Hall combined for 16 points in the first half to help Michigan State cut its deficit to 40-37 at halftime.
The Vols made enough shots, stops and free throws to hold on for what was a win-win situation for both teams as they prepare for a season with high expectations.
Tennessee is a part of this year's Maui Invitational, opening with Syracuse on Nov. 20 in Honolulu, where the tournament was moved due to the the wildfires that devastated Lahaina. The field also includes Kansas, No. 3 Purdue and No. 11 Gonzaga.
The Maui Invitational has launched an online auction with all proceeds going directly to relief and recovery efforts after the fires that killed at least 115 people on the island in August. The Hoops for ’Ohana auction is being held in partnership with the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund.
“My heart breaks for what’s going on over there and the fact that it’s going take long time to rebuild,” Barnes said.
Tennessee: Plays Lenoir-Rhyne on Tuesday at home.
Michigan State: Hosts James Madison on Nov. 6 in the first of two expected tune-ups before playing No. 2 Duke on Nov. 14 in Chicago.
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