Michigan State outlasts Marquette; Izzo back to Sweet 16

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Tom Izzo leaned on star guard and native New Yorker Tyson Walker to get Michigan State to Madison Square Garden for the Sweet 16.

Walker, a fourth-year player who grew up in Westbury on Long Island, delivered against Marquette in March Madness on Sunday night, scoring 23 points and punctuating Michigan State’s 69-60 victory with a steal and his first ever collegiate dunk late in the game.

And Walker wants to make sure his 68-year-old, Hall of Fame coach has a quintessential Big Apple experience.

“It means everything,” said Walker, who played two years at Northeastern before transferring to Michigan State. “Just growing up, seeing everything, playing at the Garden. Just to make those shots, look over see my dad, see how excited he was. That means everything. And I just owe Coach some pizza now. And a cab ride.”

Joey Hauser – a Marquette transfer – had 14 points and A.J. Hoggard had 13 as seventh-seeded Michigan State (21-12) took over in the last three minutes. The Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in four years and will play third-seeded Kansas State in the East Region semifinals on Thursday.

“I’ve been in Elite Eight games; I’ve been in the Final Four – that was as intense and tough a game as I’ve been in my career,” Izzo said. “And a lot of credit goes to Marquette and (coach) Shaka (Smart) and how they played, too.”

Izzo reached his 15th regional semifinal and won his record 16th March Madness game with a lower-seeded team – one more than Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who retired after this season.

This one was particularly meaningful. Izzo became the face of a grieving school where three students were killed in a campus shooting on Feb. 13.

“It’s been a long year,” an emotional Izzo said in a courtside interview. “I’m just happy for our guys.”

Olivier-Maxence Prosper led second-seeded Marquette (29-7) with 16 points and Kam Jones had 14 points, including three 3-pointers, for the Big East champions.

Michigan State led by as many as 12 in the first half, but Ben Gold and Prosper made back-to-back 3-pointers to help the Golden Eagles close within 33-28 at halftime.

Prosper hit two more 3s in the first minute of the second half to give Marquette its first lead of the day. Michigan State grabbed back the lead with an 8-0 run and didn’t relinquish it.

Back-to-back baskets in the paint by Hoggard and then Walker, both times as the shot clock expired, gave the Spartans a 60-55 lead with 2:20 left. Mady Sissoko then blocked shots on consecutive Marquette possessions, and Walker had a steal followed by a game-sealing dunk with 39 seconds left.

Marquette’s nine-game winning streak ended, concluding a season in which the Golden Eagles exceeded expectations under coach Smart, who has referred to Izzo as a mentor.

Michigan State, meanwhile, finished fourth in the Big Ten but appears to be improving at the right time.

“We’ve still got some dancing to do,” Izzo said. “And we’re going to New York. I couldn’t be more excited for Tyson and even A.J., being a Philly guy.

“After watching the tournament, it doesn’t matter who we play, when we play, where we play, or how, it’s going to be a hell of a game. And I’m looking forward to it.”


Marquette: Coming off their first Big East Tournament title, the Golden Eagles dominated Vermont in the first round of March Madness, but Michigan State was a much tougher opponent. The Golden Eagles committed 11 of their 16 turnovers in the second half, and those giveaways led to 19 Spartans points.

“I thought (Michigan State) played with great aggressiveness, particularly early in the game and at the very end of the game,” Smart said. “And those two the stretches were the difference in the outcome of the game.”

Michigan State: The Spartans came out of their shooting funk after the halfway point of the second half and pulled away. They made 15 of their 17 free throws after halftime.


Tyler Kolek, the Big East Player of the Year, injured his thumb when he caught it on the jersey of a Vermont player in the opening round Friday night.

He finished that game with eight points. He wasn’t much of a factor against Michigan State, either, scoring seven points, losing six turnovers and committing four fouls.

Kolek insisted the thumb “wasn’t an issue at all.”

“Just trying to be out there for my team and command the game. And I didn’t do that today,” he said.


Michigan State’s next opponent, Kansas State, is making its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2018 and first under coach Jerome Tang.

Michigan State muscles past USC 72-62 in March Madness

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Upset with the officials and his team’s defense, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo angrily snapped a white board in half during a timeout.

“It felt damn good,” Izzo cracked.

The Spartans broke Southern California soon after.

Joey Hauser scored 17 points and No. 7 seed Michigan State clamped down defensively on No. 10 seed USC in the second half on Thursday for a 72-62 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament’s East Region.

Izzo’s Spartans (20-12) will face the winner of the Vermont-Marquette matchup on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet 16. Marquette coach Shaka Smart sat on press row for part of the second half to get a closer look at what could be his next opponent.

Smart watched as Michigan State got more physical after halftime to muzzle the streaky Trojans (22-11), who were knocked out in the tournament’s first round for the second straight year.

Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins added 12 points apiece for Michigan State, which held USC to 34% shooting in the second half. It felt like every possession was a challenge for the Trojans, who only stayed within range with some late 3-pointers and atrocious late free-throw shooting by Michigan State.

The Spartans missed six straight from the line during one stretch while trying to close it out and finished 15 of 25 overall.

“It was a bad day,” Walker said when Izzo asked him to comment on the misfires.

“Well said,” added the coach.

Joshua Morgan scored 14 and Kobe Johnson 13 to lead USC.

Michigan State, appearing in its 25th straight tournament under Izzo, will move on in what has been a unique and challenging season for the Spartans. The team became the face of a grief-stricken school after a gunman killed three students and injured five others in a campus shooting on Feb. 13.

Following his 54th win in the NCAA Tournament, Izzo said he’s savoring every moment of this March.

“I’m not taking too much for granted anymore,” Izzo said. “It’s too crazy of a world.”

Playing in Big Ten country, and backed by a crowd wearing even more green on St. Patrick’s Day, the Spartans took control in the second half by leaning on their defense, which hasn’t been up to Michigan State standards of late.

“We got our mojo back,” Izzo said. “We talked about it for two or three weeks. But no secret that I haven’t been pleased with our defense. And I’d say 32 or 33 minutes I thought it was exceptional.”

A.J. Hoggard’s steal and layup put Michigan State ahead 58-49, and Spartans center Mady Sissoko followed with a monstrous block on USC’s next possession.

By then, the Trojans were out of sync, and they fell into a bigger hole when Hauser and Jaden Akins buried consecutive 3-pointers as Michigan State’s lead swelled to 66-51 with 4:23 left.

Johnson knocked down two 3s to pull USC within nine, but the Trojans were unable to get any closer.

“In the second half, a couple possessions we went one-on-one too much instead of playing basketball the way we were capable of,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield said. “And then missed some wide-open, timely shots.”


Izzo showed his soft, nurturing side, especially when he helped his team and the school cope following the tragedy.

However, he didn’t like being described as a “teddy bear.”

And while he’s not as fiery these days, the 68-year-old is still demanding of his players.

“I look in the mirror a lot,” he said, “and sometimes I don’t like what I see in me. And I let the players know that. So maybe the terror side will come out again. I had a parent tell me something two days ago that I really enjoyed: ‘Coach my kid, the hell with the outside stuff. Coach my kid.’

“So I’m coaching them. So hopefully I bring that with me this weekend and hopefully our team responds.”


USC: The Trojans got a taste of what life will be like when they join the Big 10 in two years. This wasn’t their style of game as the officials allowed some hand-checking and maybe more contact than USC is accustomed to.

Michigan State: Following an uneven regular season, the Spartans look to be playing their tough brand of ball.

Michigan State women’s hoops coach Suzy Merchant steps down

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Suzy Merchant stepped down as Michigan State’s women’s basketball coach, citing health concerns.

“After much consideration and consultation with my health care providers, I have come to the difficult decision that it is in my best interest,” Merchant said in a statement released by the school.

The 53-year-old Merchant had not coached the Spartans since she was in a one-car crash after a medical incident in late January. Six seasons ago, she fainted and collapsed onto the court during a game and doctors later discovered she had a heart abnormality.

Associate head coach Dean Lockwood, who filled in for Merchant this season, will serve as the team’s interim coach while the school searches for a new leader for the program.

Merchant had a five-year rollover contract with a base salary of $700,000.

The 2011 Big Ten coach of the year won two Big Ten titles, earned 10 NCAA Tournament bids and reached the Sweet 16 in 2019. She was 327-186 over 16 seasons with the Spartans and 528-306 overall, including her records at Eastern Michigan and Saginaw Valley State.

Merchant, who is from Traverse City, was a four-year starter and three-time captain for Central Michigan’s basketball team.

“I would like to extend a special appreciation to (former athletic director) Mark Hollis and (former school president) Dr. Lou Anna Simon for giving a small-town kid from Northern Michigan the chance of a lifetime to live my dream as a Spartan,” Merchant said. “I’m eternally grateful.”

No. 13 seed Ohio State reaches semis, 68-58 over Spartans

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CHICAGO – Bruce Thornton had 21 points and six assists, freshman Roddy Gayle Jr. scored seven of his season-high 15 points in the final five minutes and short-handed Ohio State beat fourth-seeded Michigan State 68-58 in the Big Ten Conference Tournament.

Ohio State (16-18) became the lowest seed, at No. 13, to ever reach the Big Ten semifinals. The Buckeyes will face top-seeded Purdue on Saturday, looking for their first win in three tries this season.

The Buckeyes were without leading scorer Brice Sensabaugh, at 16.3 points per game, due to knee soreness. But Gayle, who hadn’t scored in double figures since netting 12 points on Dec. 3 against St. Francis (Pa.), scored 12 points in the second half to make up for Sensabaugh’s absence.

Gayle extended Ohio State’s lead to 51-39 on a 3-pointer with 8:05 remaining and Justice Sueing added another 3-pointer on their next possession. Gayle made two free throws with 4:27 left and after Michigan State airballed a 3-pointer, Gayle rattled in a 3-pointer to make it 61-50. Gayle added a tough layup for an 11-point lead to cap his run of seven straight points for Michigan State.

Sueing finished with four 3-pointers and 14 points for Ohio State, which lost both regular-season meetings with Michigan State, 62-41 on Feb. 12 and 84-78 on March 4.

Ohio State had its lead trimmed to 36-34 before Thornton and Sueing made back-to-back 3-pointers to start a 10-2 run. Thornton capped the run with a fast-break layup after Sueing blocked a Michigan State shot at the rim.

Joey Hauser led Michigan State (19-12) with 15 points. Jaden Akins, A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker each scored 10.

Michigan State missed 13 of 15 shots midway through the first half before Tre Holloman scored with 5:56 left before the break. Ohio State scored eight points around Holloman’s basket to extend its lead to 28-19 and led 33-24 at halftime as Michigan State was held to 31% shooting, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.

Spartans pregame ceremony honors 3 killed in campus shooting

Robert Killips | Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State women’s basketball players wiped away tears as they stood shoulder to shoulder during a moment of silence before losing to No. 8 Maryland 66-61 on Saturday, less than a week after three students were killed in a shooting on campus.

“I’m really proud of us for just showing up,” said Julia Ayrault, who led the Spartans with 15 points. “It’s hard to come back and play a game that seems so small.”

Diamond Miller scored 29 points and helped the Terrapins (22-5, 13-3 Big Ten) hold on for the win after leading by 16 points in the second half.

“We knew today would be extremely emotional,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “Michigan State was one possession away from taking this game from us.”

The Spartans (13-13, 5-10) rallied to have a chance at pulling off an upset, coming up short after DeeDee Hagerman missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.

“They’re strong,” Miller said. “They’re resilient. They did not stop.”

Michigan State players wore white shirts with “Spartan Strong” and the school’s logo in green during warmups while coaches, support staff, administrators, cheerleaders and mascot sported the tops all afternoon.

“We all need healing and sports can do that,” said Michigan State acting coach Dean Lockwood, who has filled in for Suzy Merchant since she was in a car crash last month. “We wanted this to be a healing event for our community.”

The victims, and survivors, were honored with pregame remarks as athletic events resumed on a campus and community reeling from the tragedy. On Saturday, four of the wounded students remained in critical condition at a Lansing hospital and one was still hospitalized in stable condition.

Funerals were held earlier in the day for Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner while Arielle Anderson’s funeral is scheduled for next week. They were among eight students shot two buildings that are one-third of a mile apart on winding sidewalks on campus.

Police say Anthony McRae, a 43-year-old man with no connection to the school, went into Berkey Hall where evening classes were being held and opened fire in a classroom then walked about 5 minutes away to the MSU Student Union and fired more shots before fleeing and dying from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

The union, which would normally be open on a Saturday afternoon, had signs in door windows that informed visitors it was closed until further notice.

Red and yellow flowers were placed in door handles at the the northern entrance and on the other side, a slew of flower bouquets were strewn on steps on a sun-splashed, relatively warm afternoon. Near the Berkey Hall sign, flowers and candles were placed in a tree bed where Michigan State graduate Pedro Kuyenga bowed his head for a few minutes.

“I prayed for the souls of the students who departed unexpectedly and sadly,” he said. “I prayed to give the families affected comfort, and the knowledge and wisdom to the hospital staff helping the students recover.”

Streams of people also visited “The Rock,” a community gathering place that has become a makeshift memorial in the days since the attack, and the Spartan Statue, where a sea of flowers have been placed this week.

The Michigan State men’s basketball team, which like the women had a game postponed earlier in the week, traveled to play rival Michigan on the road Saturday night.

The rivalry rested during a poignant pregame in Ann Arbor, were a long moment of silence was broken by the Michigan band playing “MSU Shadows,” while Crisler Arena was dimly lit with green and white lights from LED wristbands that were given to fans.

“I thought it was a very classy move on their part,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after losing to Michigan 84-72.

The Wolverines, and their student section, wore maize shirts with Michigan Basketball Stands with MSU across the chest.


Maryland: Miller, the Big Ten player of the week, needs more teammates to make shots than they did Saturday to make a deep runs in the conference and NCAA Tournaments.

Michigan State: Athletic director Alan Haller said he hoped the game that drew about 3,439 fans gave the grieving community a place to gather after athletic events were cancelled earlier in the week.


Maryland: Host No. 7 Iowa on Tuesday. The Hawkeyes handed the Terrapins a 96-82 loss two weeks ago.

Michigan State: Host Minnesota on Wednesday, the last home game for the Spartans

Michigan State rallies to win after giving up lead to Maryland

Maryland v Michigan State
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Joey Hauser scored 20 points and Tyson Walker had 17 and Michigan State rallied after scoring the game’s first 15 points to beat Maryland 63-58.

A.J. Hoggard had 10 rebounds and eight assists for Michigan State.

Jahmir Young scored 17 points for Maryland, Hakim Hart 12, Julian Reese 11 and Donta Scott 10 for the Terrapins.

The Spartans (15-9, 7-6 Big Ten) used an 8-0 run in which Walker made a layup and 3-pointer wrapped around a 3 from Jaden Akins for a 52-48 lead with 7:44 remaining and Michigan State led for the remainder.

The Terrapins erupted for a 12-0 run in less than three minutes in the second half turning a 38-26 deficit into a 38-all tie. Young and Hart posted back-to-back three-point plays, and Hart’s 3-pointer with 13:01 knotted it at 38. Prior to that 3, Hart was 3-for-last-27 shooting from beyond the arc. Maryland finished shooting 3 of 22 from distance.

Michigan State started the game with a 15-0 run and led 31-22 at halftime. Coming off an 81-46 win over Maryland (16-8, 7-6 Big Ten) on Saturday, the Terrapins have yet to win back-to-back contests in almost three years.

The Terrapins host Penn State on Saturday. Michigan State travels to play Ohio State on Sunday.