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Tom Izzo, No. 7 Michigan State advance to Elite 8 with 62-58 win over No. 3 Oklahoma


Michigan State, the No. 7 seed in the East Region, defeated No. 3 Oklahoma, 62-58, on Friday night inside the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The Spartans will play No. 4 Louisville for a shot at the Final Four.

The Spartans held off a late comeback bid from the Sooners, hitting all six free throws in the final 80 seconds of regulation.

Travis Trice had another good showing in the NCAA tournament with a game-high 24 points while Denzel Valentine added 18. Buddy Hield led Oklahoma with 21 points.

It wasn’t until 9:30 left in the game that Michigan State took its first lead. Just over two minutes later, Oklahoma would recapture the lead with a TaShawn Thomas layup. However, that’d be the Sooners only field goal in an eight and half minute span. That slump didn’t snap until Hield hit a second-chance three with just over a minute to go, cutting the deficit to 58-56. From there Michigan State closed it out from the line.

The win for Michigan State sets up Sunday’s matchup between two coaching greats — Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo — who have both been terrific this March. As I mentioned earlier in the night, Pitino dismissed Chris Jones from the program last month, yet finds his team in another Elite 8; the third time in four years.

This time last year, No. 4 seeded Michigan State was a trendy pick to be the national champion. Every four-year player under Izzo had reached at least one Final Four entering the 2014 NCAA Tournament, however, eventual champion UConn ended that streak in the Elite 8 along with the careers of Adreian Payne and Keith Appling. Sophomore Gary Harris decided to declare for the NBA Draft, leaving Izzo with some experience, but no stars.

That was apparent in November when the Spartans played the role of odd man out in the Champions Classic double-header. Each of the other participants — Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State’s opponent that night, Duke — all had their share of McDonald’s All-Americans, compared to only one (Dawson) for Michigan State.

Yet, here they are, relying on the play of Trice, Valentine and Dawson, all of whom have had their share of NCAA tournament experience.

Two unlikely runs converge on Sunday between Louisville and Michigan State, but only one will continue on the road to Indianapolis.

Tom Izzo and No. 7 Michigan State advance to the Round of 32 with a 70-63 win over Georgia

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Four missed shots and two turnovers in the opening four minutes was not an ideal start for No. 7 Michigan State in the Round of 64 contest against No. 10 Georgia. Nearly blowing a 12-point lead in the final two minutes isn’t exactly how Sparty wanted to end the game either.

However, it is March and it is Tom Izzo, and once again Michigan State is advancing in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Georgia, 70-63, on Saturday afternoon.

The Spartans were plus-eight on the glass, which helped spark the transition offense along with early turnovers from the Bulldogs.

Despite battling foul trouble in the first half Branden Dawson scored 14 points. He was one of four Spartans in double figures along with Denzel Valentine (16), Travis Trice (15) and Bryn Forbes (14), who combined to shoot 7-of-16 from beyond the 3-point line.

It was that 3-point shooting and ability to get on the fast break that helped Michigan State not only take the lead, but build on it, taking a 13-point into the locker room after ending the first half with an 8-0 run. The Spartans were able to maintain that lead as well. A 4-point play from Bryn Forbes bumped the lead back up to a baker’s dozen with inside eight minutes to play. It looked like Michigan State had put the game out of reach after Dawson and Valentine converted on back-to-back buckets, putting the Spartans up 64-52 with 2:05 left, but then Michigan State went on cruise control.

The Bulldogs attempted a final comeback, going on a 9-2 run to cut it to a one-possession game at 66-63 with 20 seconds to play, though, their efforts were too little, too late. After struggling from the line as a team, Valentine iced the game with four straight free throws.

Michigan State gets the winner of No. 2 Virginia and No. 15 Belmont on Sunday.

Michigan State basketball players celebrate football team’s bowl victory (VIDEO)

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New Year’s Day, as is often the case, is a holiday in which college football gets far more attention than college basketball and many programs and conferences have accounted for this. With a light schedule in college basketball, some players have the opportunity to watch their classmates play in their biggest game of the season.

That was the case for the Michigan State basketball team, which was able to watch their football team come back from a 20-point deficit to beat Baylor 42-41 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. Above is a short video of the players watching the end of the game in the locker room, with Connor Cook’s game-winning touchdown pass to Keith Mumphrey with 17 seconds remaining and linebacker Riley Bullough’s game-sealing interception being the plays watched in the video.

Football is a sport Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has incorporated into his program throughout his tenure in East Lansing. In past years Izzo’s players have donned shoulder pads in practice for incredibly physical rebounding drills, and last season’s team took a trip to Indianapolis to watch the football team beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.