Experience, adversity fuel Spartan comeback to blow out Miami
TULSA, Okla. — During the first 13 minutes of No. 9 MSU’s 78-58 win over No. 8 Miami (Fla.) Friday night looked like dé
Nearly a year ago to the day, the Spartans were upset by Middle Tennessee State University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and it started with a 17-2 run from the Blue Raiders. MSU once again found itself in the hole early, down 17-5 with no signs of offensive life. Facing another first-round exit, things looked bleak.
Five turnovers in the early stages of the run helped the Hurricanes start the game on a 10-0 run. A foul called on freshman forward Nick Ward put him on the bench in the opening minute of play.
MSU needed to find a way to stop the bleeding,
“We turned the ball over,” Nairn said. “We had five turnovers early in the game, and after
And after a pep talk from head coach Tom Izzo during a timeout, the Spartans rebounded. During the next seven
“There was a lot of things said in that first timeout,” freshman point guard Cassius
Winston hit a stutter-step three to help MSU complete a 33-10 run to take a 38-27 lead by the end of the first half. The Spartans closed the half making nine of its last 11 field goal attempts and outscored Miami 17-6 during the final 5:42. Overall, MSU was 12-of-21 on field goal attempts and Miami missed seven of its last nine field goal attempts.
Once MSU established itself in the first half, the game plan came to staving off Miami’s offense. The Spartans pushed their lead to 23-points at one point and dominated the post, outscoring the Hurricanes in the paint 40-28. Once momentum favored MSU, they out-rebounded the Hurricanes 36-23 by the end of regulation.
Guards Ja’Quan Lyle, Davon Reed and Bruce Brown all reached double-figure scoring and combined for 39 points. Despite the worrisome run early on from Miami, Winston said everything MSU learned through the season
“Honestly, I wouldn’t say it was that big a deal,” Winston said. “This team, we’ve just grown a lot, and we’ve been through so much this year. They made their 10-0 run and we’re like, ‘alright, we’re good’ where a lot of
It seemed every player agreed MSU’s grueling travel routine in non-conference play helped ready the Spartans for big game situations. Playing against top-ranked opponents at venues across the country built the Spartans up, while the Hurricanes tore themselves down.
“The biggest thing with us is all throughout the year is that we’ve been on big stages, playing at Palestra,” freshman guard Joshua Langford said. “Playing at MSG, playing in Hawaii, all those things have prepared us for this tournament.”
Up next for MSU is No. 1 Kansas. The Jayhawks blew out No. 16 UC-Davis in its first round matchup on Friday, and are a favorite by many to reach the Final Four. While this young Spartan team has raised eyebrows, Izzo has higher expectations moving forward.
“We haven’t accomplished the world yet,” Izzo said. “Michigan State winning a game in the Tournament isn’t a big deal. But there’s been a process to this whole thing, and I’ve been sticking to it and saying it. We did get better the last 10-12 games, it didn’t always end up in wins. It was fun to see that bunch of guys, their character, getting down like that and bouncing back, it showed something about their DNA and I think it showed something about all they’ve been through.”
In the meantime, MSU will bask in the win.
“Sometimes the adversity kills you, and sometimes you rise up,” Izzo said. “I think this team in the last month has really risen up. This was one hell of a good performance against a damn good team. That should not get under-appreciated either. That was a good team defensively, they had some weapons, and I thought we played our best.”