After shooting nearly 60% from the field in the first half and taking a 45-33 lead into the half, East Region No. 4 Michigan State fell into a false sense of security. Instead of continuing to work hard on both ends of the floor the Spartans allowed themselves to be outworked by No. 12 Harvard, resulting in a 29-11 Crimson run.
Luckily for Michigan State they mustered up a quality response, regaining control with an 11-1 run and going on to win 80-73.
One game after Adreian Payne scored a career-high 41 points fellow forward Branden Dawson established a career high Saturday night, scoring 26 points to go along with nine rebounds. Michigan State was effective early because they ran on misses and shared the basketball, and they got in trouble by getting away from the basics that made them so successful.
During Harvard’s 29-11 run guard Brandyn Curry and forward Steve Moundou-Missi were the standouts, and when Laurent Rivard’s three-pointer with 7:11 remaining gave Tommy Amaker’s team a 62-60 lead it was clear that the Spartans were at an important point in their season. A trendy pick to reach the Final Four, Michigan State was in danger of heading home two games into the NCAA tournament.
However a Travis Trice three-pointer swung momentum back in favor of Michigan State, and he’s been a key contributor in both tournament wins. After scoring 19 points against Delaware on Thursday, Trice wasn’t as productive against Harvard but his lone three-pointer was of high importance. Both Trice and Keith Appling struggled against a backcourt led by Curry and Siyani Chambers, but the contributions of Dawson and Gary Harris (18 points) ensured that Michigan State would advance to the Sweet 16.
The lesson to be learned for Michigan State is one of consistency, which will be critical moving forward for Tom Izzo’s squad. When clicking this is one of the best teams remaining in the tournament, but they’re by no means invisible especially when not doing the things that make them successful.
Fortunately for the Spartans they’ll be able to apply those lessons with a game left to be played, against either No. 1 Virginia or No. 8 Memphis Friday at Madison Square Garden.