Michigan State’s interior dominance bodes well for the future

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With the many upsets that occurred on Friday some got the idea that LIU Brooklyn had the tools necessary to possibly make history, becoming the first-ever 16-seed to knock off a 1-seed.

Draymond Green and company had other ideas, however.

Green posted his second triple-double in as many tournament games, finishing with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and no turnovers as Michigan State beat LIU 89-67.

But it wasn’t just Green who took over in the paint for Michigan State, who eventually overwhelmed the NEC champions in the second half.

Derrick Nix scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds and Adriean Payne added 16 and seven boards, and as a team the Spartans shot 59% from the field while also out-rebounding LIU 43-20.

“I can’t say enough about Derrick and Adreian, between the two of them, unbelievable performance, 16 of 24,” said head coach Tom Izzo. “I think they had 15 rebounds and played pretty good defense against a tough guy to guard in Boyd.”

Michigan State attempted just nine 3-pointers but when you’re able to make 40 shots from the field overall it really doesn’t matter what happens beyond the arc. LIU made eight of their seventeen shots from deep but went 14-of-33 inside of the arc, which opened the door for Michigan State to take control of a game they led by just five (42-37) at the half.

“I thought we did a great job in the first half of really grinding it out, and in the second half I just felt at times they kind of overwhelmed us with their size,” remarked LIU head coach Jim Ferry. “Whether it was scoring interior or just keeping them off the glass.

That’s going to be the ticket for the Spartans as they continue on their trek towards another Final Four appearance, beginning with Sunday’s game against 9-seed Saint Louis.

Green has been the unquestioned leader for Michigan State all season long and he’ll continue to lead the way. But if the Spartans can get consistent play from Nix and Payne they’re going to be tough to beat on the way to New Orleans.

Raphielle Johnson is the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net. He can be followed at @raphiellej.