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Thursday, July 24, 2014


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Sweet Survival


MSU advances to Sweet 16 after blowing through Delaware and escaping a late Harvard charge




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Head coach Tom Izzo talks to sophomore guard Denzel Valentine on March 22, 2014, at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, Wash., during the game against Harvard in the NCAA Tournament. MSU won, 80-73. Betsy Agosta/The State News



Capping off a two-win weekend in Spokane, Wash., Izzo and the MSU men’s basketball team beat another Ivy League school to reach Izzo’s 12th Sweet 16 in 17 years.

“You know, this one was a good win because of what we have been through,” Izzo said after MSU’s 80-73 win against Harvard Saturday.

“We had to play pretty good to beat a really good team, even though we made some mistakes. I never keep track. Those kind of things are for retirement and I don’t plan on doing that right now, or in the near future,” he said.

But the more notable performance from the Spartans this week took place on Thursday, when the Spartans took on Delaware.

Senior Adreian Payne set a new MSU NCAA Tournament record, scoring 41 points in the Spartans’ 93-78 win against Delaware.

After a tough Big Ten Tournament that saw him disappear because of foul trouble at times, it was just the performance Payne — and the Spartans — needed to get the Big Dance kicked off.

In addition to his big night from the floor, Payne was perfect from the free throw line, hitting all 17 of his foul shots.

He had as many points from the free throw line as guard s Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Denzel Valentine combined.

“I didn’t really feel like I was going to have a game like this,” Payne said following his performance against Delaware. “I just came out just trying to play and win. Coach said he was going to come to me early, and that’s what he did and my teammates did a great job at getting me the ball so I can get baskets in easy ways.”

After 12th-seeded Harvard upset No. 5 seeded Cincinnati in the round of 64, it set up another matchup between coaches who are good friends off the court — Izzo and Tommy Amaker, Harvard’s coach and former Michigan boss.

Payne played big again, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds.

But it was junior forward Branden Dawson and Harris’ night to shine.

Dawson was electric in the first half, matching his career-high of 20 points and ballooning t he MSU lead to as many as 16 points.

But the Crimson didn’t fold, and came back to take a lead with a little more than seven minutes to play.

Harris showed the playmaking ability everybody knew he had and hit a 3-pointer to put the Spartans up six following the Harvard run.

“My teammates set a great screen for me,” Harris said. “I was able to get open and knock down a three. I was able to get the ball in spots, my teammates found me and I was thankfully able to knock down some shots.”

The Spartans will head to a familiar place in the next leg of the tournament — Madison Square Garden in New York City for the Sweet 16.

MSU is 2-1 in the Empire State this year, losing to Georgetown at the Garden on Feb. 1 and winning the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn in November.

”We’re going to be able to get a lot of coaching points in for the next two days as we start to work on our next opponent, and it will be really good when you can do it at this time of year — it will actually be kind of fun,” Izzo said. “We stil l got a lot of work to do to kind of get us back to where we were three months ago.”


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