UCLA took a flight and MSU headed just more than four hours from East Lansing to West Lafayette as the Spartans had once again found themselves in the thick of March Madness.
After having tipoff moved from 9:57 p.m. to 10:19 p.m., the Bruins and Spartans battled through regulation and then overtime. MSU fell, 86-80, to UCLA in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament.
"We had the game won and then we made some of the same mistakes that we’ve made 2 or 3 times this year in critical situations," Head Coach Tom Izzo said post game. "I thought we played incredibly well offensively and incredibly poor defensively."
Ending regulation tied at 77, Michigan State would look to finish the game that they once held a 12-point lead in.
But with MSU in turnover trouble, UCLA would take a three-point lead with 46 seconds remaining in overtime.
Twenty seconds later, the Bruins did what they had done all second half and in overtime against the Spartans: They found openings, and they made their shots.
Michigan State’s downfall came in the second half as UCLA’s sharpshooters found wide-open looks from behind the arc.
UCLA sophomore Johnny Juzang made two straight shots from three-point range during UCLA’s 7-0 opening second-half run that sparked a comeback that forced the extra period.
The combined pairing of Juzang and sophomore guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. proved lethal to the Spartans, combining for 50 points and eight rebounds in the win. UCLA will next play No. 6 seed BYU in the Round of 64 on Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
"If you talk about individually I have no reason to hang my head," graduate student guard Joshua Langford said. "I wasn’t perfect but I tried to be the best that I could be for my teammates but even tonight I came up short with it.”
Despite UCLA's rapid start, MSU looked like they would save themselves.
With six minutes remaining, junior forward Aaron Henry worked his way around UCLA defenders to turn and put down his classic 2-point mid-range jumper. Spartan fans erupted and after a missed UCLA layup, Spartan sophomore and forward Malik Hall would convert a 3-point play on the other end.
But then UCLA would make it a three-point game again at 75-72 with 1:46 to play, and the Spartans never seemed to find their groove again.
The Spartans accumulated 44 first-half points and shot 56.7% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, maybe the Spartans' best half of basketball all season. Henry led with 18 points, while Langford and Hall also recorded double-digit points.
Four UCLA players scored in double-digits. The Bruins shot 50% from the three, largely leading to their victory.
MSU ends the season with a 15-13 record overall, keeping Tom Izzo's NCAA Tournament appearance streak alive with the at-large bid earned late in the season with wins over No. 1 seeds Illinois and Michigan and No. 2 seed Ohio State. Those wins in the closing weeks of the regular season are what sustained the streak.
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