The story of the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout was too much Steve Smith and not enough Steve Henson.
Michigan State had Smith, and that proved pivotal as the Spartans beat Kansas State 73-68 in Monday night’s championship basketball game.
Smith, named the tournament’s outstanding player, scored 17 points, handed out 11 assists, grabbed 6 rebounds, made 2 steals and blocked a shot in the final.
“Smith obviously really controlled the ballgame and dictated a lot of things,” Kansas State Coach Lon Kruger said. “They’re big and strong and whipped up on us.”
Henson, who had directed Kansas State to two comeback victories earlier, was hampered by a thigh injury and spent most of the day in bed with the flu. He finished with 14 points but played only 28 minutes.
Kruger refused to use that as an excuse.
“He was not quite himself, but that’s part of the game,” Kruger said.
Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote, who says Henson reminds him of the great Spartan guard Scott Skiles, admitted that he was worried when Henson’s jump shot made it 65-60 with 1:21 to go.
“We were concerned--I don’t think panicked, but concerned,” Heathcote said after watching his team fritter away most of a 16-point lead in four minutes.
But Kirk Manns sank six free throws in the final 81 seconds to enable the Spartans to hold on.