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.