Tourney recap: No. 9 Michigan State rolls No. 8 Miami
Langford scored nine of MSU's first 11 points in the second half, and his 3-pointer increased the lead to 49-32.
After coasting in the second half and grasping a 100-62 victory over University of California-Davis on Friday evening, the Midwest No. 1 seed Jayhawks (29-4) advanced to play a program that looks a lot like them. The Sophomore scored 23 points on 10-of-26 shooting. Kansas also has talented freshman wing Josh Jackson, who averages 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. March is usually Tom Izzo's time to shine no matter the Spartans' regular season performance, minus last year's first round loss to Middle Tennessee. Bridges leads the Spartans in points (16.7) and rebounds (8.3) per game while Ward is second in both categories at 13.9 points and 6.6 boards.
Defensively, the Spartans allowed 1.02 points per possession, which ranked 5th in the Big 10, and are now 31st overall. Michigan State gets number one seeded Kansas next in the second round. The 78-58 game brings more questions than answers.
It lived up to the hype as MI, seeded seventh in the Midwest region, poured home a tournament-record 16 three-pointers (16-29, .552) with a total of 16 lead changes and 12 ties throughout a frenetic 40 minutes of play. What happened after a 5-17 start of the game? "I want to see him go far, that's just how it is".
Nothing suggested that the Spartans will have their way with Miami. More fouls and turnovers ensued, which the Hurricanes used to build 10-0 and 17-5 leads and conjure of memories of MSU's disastrous beginning against Middle Tennessee State a year ago in St. Louis.
Things change when threes start falling.
The Nittany Lions extended the lead as freshman Denis Smirnov skated through the right slot and fed a backhand pass across ice to find classmate Nate Sucese for the backdoor tap-in at 13:24 for the 2-0 lead. He returned to the game later in the first half. After six early turnovers, they've committed only 6 more the rest of the way. In a back-and-forth game of offensive fireworks and optional defense, Oklahoma State could not keep up with the 3-point barrage. Wichita State blocked eight shots and held the seventh-seeded Flyers to a season-low 31 percent from the field.
Freshman forward Nick Ward led the way for Michigan State, scoring 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting, while fellow newcomer Miles Bridges was 8 of 12 from the field and added 18 points in the win. The victor faces the Kansas-UC Davis victor on Sunday.
Bench play - Michigan State gives 45 percent of its minutes to its bench, the most in America.
MI has proven over the course of the season it can push the tempo, slow it down in the half court and even switch gears during a game.
The Wildcats advance to the Sweet 16 in Memphis.
As for the players, fifth-year senior Landen Lucas has been on the team for three matchups against the Spartans and noted some similarities in the toughness and resiliency of all the Michigan State teams - "It seems like no matter what kind of team he has, it always has the same kind of feel", he said - while perhaps the longest tenured member of the team recalled his first matchup with the Spartans a little differently.
Michigan State will need a great game in order to pull the upset. "It makes me go out and play much more free knowing they have a lot of confidence in me". We can play slow ball, we can play fast ball and I think that's what makes us successful.
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