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FINAL: Michigan State fends off Marquette to advance to Sweet Sixteen

March 19, 2023
MSU graduate student forward Joey Hauser shoots over Marquette sophomore guard Kam Jones. The Spartans defeated the Golden Eagles 69-60 to advance to the Sweet 16
MSU graduate student forward Joey Hauser shoots over Marquette sophomore guard Kam Jones. The Spartans defeated the Golden Eagles 69-60 to advance to the Sweet 16

COLUMBUS, OH- Following a 72-62 MSU victory over USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans faced No. 2 seed Marquette in the round of 32 on Sunday evening.

After a hot start from Michigan State quickly turned into a neck-and-neck showdown late in the first half, the Spartans turned it up a notch to fend off the Golden Eagles 69-60 and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. 

The Spartans' feisty first half was set in motion with big buckets from a variety of starters. 

Junior center Mady Sissoko slammed in a bucket to put MSU on the board and bring key momentum to carry the green and white through the majority of the first half.

Junior guard A.J. Hoggard brought his A-game, bringing the necessary guard play against Marquette’s stellar backcourt. 

Marquette’s guard play was unmatched to MSU’s with Hoggard and senior guard Tyson Walker dominating in the backcourt. The two starters combined for 11 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds in the first half.

Sophomore guard Jaden Akins was another standout Spartan. Akins made waves for MSU, consistently driving to the basket and taking jump shots to get the offense moving during lulls. Defensively, the sophomore was efficient at defending the Golden Eagles and handling the challenging full-court press.

Spartan rebounding was impressive as soon as the game tipped off, with MSU out-rebounding the Golden Eagles 20-12 in the first half of the contest.

Just when it looked like the first-half Spartan scoring momentum had begun to shift, senior forward Malik Hall lobbed the ball over to freshman center Carson Cooper who slammed it in the net, putting MSU back on track.

Cooper had another impressive tournament performance. The rookie saw the floor for a total of 16 minutes, stepping in once Sissoko got a glimpse of foul trouble. 

In the final five or so minutes leading up to the half, MSU began to regress, allowing for its opponent to shorten the Spartan lead down to three. Akins answered for the green and white, draining the final two points before halftime, allowing for a 33-28 score. 

When the Spartans returned, Marquette quickly crept up behind, taking the lead for the first time a few minutes into the second half.

The Golden Eagles couldn’t seem to miss in the opening minutes following halftime, and the Spartans' shots failed to fall. 

MSU went on two scoring droughts early in the second half. Walker broke the first scoreless five minutes when he drained two points from the edge of the arc, putting a bit of life back into MSU’s offense. After five more scoreless minutes for MSU, Hoggard reanimated the offense as he drove to the left, tossing up the ball for two points, bringing MSU back ahead of its opponent. 

Three-point shooting was MSU's weak link throughout the entirety of the matchup. The Spartans were 2-16 from beyond the arc at the end of the matchup compared to 11-27 for the Golden Eagles. 

The tournament battle went from competitive to physical in the final few minutes, but the Spartans slowly climbed ahead. Sissoko was key defensively down the stretch, swatting away Marquette's shots left and right.

The Spartans extended their lead back out to nine, outlasting the Golden Eagles and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in New York City.

The Spartans will face Kansas State on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Tipoff time has not yet been announced.

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