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.
No. 15 Cincinnati pounced on Memphis from the start, taking a 51-32 lead into halftime.
Then, Gary Clark decided to add insult to injury to start the second half. Seriously, how did he catch that?
Mick Cronin’s team is much better offensively than in previous seasons. I’m sure fans in the Fifth Third Arena can get used to seeing more plays like this.
Michigan State freshman guard Cassius Winston had just one field goal in the first half. And it was a half-court buzzer-beater as the Spartans capped a sizable run to take a 49-31 lead over Nebraska going into the break.
The Spartans ended the half on a 21-5 run.
Winston provided a serious boost off the bench during that stanza. Moments earlier, he helped the Breslin Center erupt when he lobbed a pass off the backboard to teammate Miles Bridges.
Michigan State opened the day projected as one of the final at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. The margin for error is thing and it appears the Spartans are playing with a sense of urgency.
Wednesday’s slate of games had several wild results.
Former Ohio State walk-on turned blogger turned author Mark Titus, who is currently writing for The Ringer, joined Rob Dauster on the latest episode of the CBT Podcast to go over last night’s games. The two also discussed who is the best team in the nation at the moment, as well Frank Mason III’s rap single from several years ago #BIFM
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom
North Carolina’s Roy Williams called fellow Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino to apologize for a fan’s behavior during Wednesday night’s game in Chapel Hill.
While leaving the floor at halftime, Pitino had to be restrained by members of the Louisville coaching staff and he and a UNC fan exchanged words as he made his way to the locker rom. There’s video of Pitino pointing and shouting at a fan, who reportedly said, “Pitino, you suck!”
“I don’t like that,” Williams said, according to the Charlotte Observer. “I mean we’re in North Carolina. We don’t have to be like everybody else. We can raise Cain. You can boo, but you don’t have to say the stuff that we as coaches have to put up with.”
“I hope that never happens at North Carolina ever again.”
No. 8 North Carolina defeated No. 7 Louisville, 74-63.
STILL TO PLAY
Georgia at Alabama (RPI: 68, KenPom: 61, next four teams), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Michigan State (RPI: 43, KenPom: 55, No. 10 seed), 7:00 p.m.
Towson at UNC Wilmington (RPI: 41, KenPom: 57, No. 12 seed), 7:00 p.m.