With 7:04 to play on Saturday, Travis Trice fouled Memphis guard Joe Jackson, who also made the layup to cut MSU's lead to 11 points.
It was Trice's fourth foul. Keith Appling had left the game less than two minutes earlier with a shoulder injury, and Gary Harris had been sitting on on the bench for six minutes with his own four fouls. Suddenly, MSU was without many options for the backcourt, a game that shouldn't have been close was, and things were close to unraveling.
But Jackson missed the free throw. Adreian Payne grabbed the rebound, and Trice — a 17 percent two-point shooter — hit a two-point jumper on the baseline on the other end. Harris nor Trice would end up fouling out, Denzel Valentine did a great job running the offense when called upon, Appling would return to the bench and MSU finished the game on a 16-5 run for a 70-48 final score in a second-round win over Memphis.
MSU will face either Duke or Creighton in Indianapolis on Friday (time TBD).
It was a game that was never quite as close as it felt, but MSU's propensity to hand the ball over and Memphis' ability to take advantage and score quickly made you never feel comfortable. The final score felt like the opposite of the Valpo game. The numbers, though, made it look fair.
Memphis did not play many defenses like MSU over the course of the season. The Tigers had an eFG% of 53.0 entering the game, but shot 34.1 percent on 2s and 21.7 percent on 3s. According to CBS, it was Memphis' worst regular FG% since 2006. There were not many open looks, and although the Tigers had 12 points on the fast break, MSU did a great job getting back on a team that was No. 30 in tempo.
Both teams had a tendency to turn the ball over this season, but Memphis was much better at forcing them. Most of MSU's turnovers against Valpo were a result of being over-aggressive, and that appeared to be the case again. At least three times, MSU just threw the ball out of bounds while going for the full-court pass to start a fast break. It was the only reason MSU wasn't able to pull away sooner. Branden Dawson had four turnovers, while Payne had Trice each had three.
While Memphis is a long, athletic team, they aren't that great of a rebounding team. In the first half, the Tigers were beating MSU to so many loose rebounds, it was keeping them in the game. In the end, their 23.9 OR% is lower than I would have guessed. MSU was challenged inside by Memphis, unlike against Valpo, and they answered with the offensive rebounding (43.8 percent), blocks (7) and a 34-22 edge in points in the paint.
MSU started out hot, pushing out to a 26-13 lead 12 minutes into the game with Harris scoring 14. MSU's halfcourt offense was working great going inside-out. But as the Memphis defense adjusted a bit and MSU started going to Nix less, the turnovers picked up, like always. Memphis finished the half on a 16-6 run to cut MSU's lead to 32-29 at half.
MSU started the second half on a 7-1 run, but Harris quickly picked up his third foul. He came back in with MSU leading 39-32 with 14:23 to go, but picked up his fourth foul 41 seconds later. With momentum starting to shift, MSU answered with a bucket by Appling (his only one of the day) and an offensive rebound and dunk from Payne to push the lead to 11. It would get as big as 15, before Memphis had a chance to cut it to 10 after Trice's fourth foul.
But every time it looked like Memphis was getting ready for a run to make it close, MSU answered, and they blew past the Tigers down the stretch. Denzel Valentine played really well when asked to run the offense, and Trice was serviceable. MSU always says it can play fast and it can play slow. They did both against Memphis.
There also was that towel thing with Appling and Derrick Nix. I was at the game and didn't see it live, but a U-M fan by me pointed it out and thought it was a bad thing for MSU. Spartan fans knew otherwise.
Little do they know that's pretty light for a Tom Izzo huddle lmao I love it— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) March 23, 2013
Lol look back closely at that huddle y'all see Coach didn't say a word lol— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) March 23, 2013
-- Gary Harris has looked much better in this NBA arena than the last. His 23 points were the most for an MSU freshman in the tournament since Shawn Respert vs. Cincy in 1992. He nearly had a point per minute, playing 25 while dealing with the foul trouble. He went 2-for-2 on 2s and 4-for-7 on 3s. His third and fourth fouls came with him being over-aggressive when he should have known better. Thankfully, it didn't matter in the end.
-- Adreian Payne had a monster game after a quiet performance against Valpo. Payne finished with 14 points on 7-for-14 shooting, with 10 rebounds (three offensive), two steals, three turnovers and five blocks. Memphis had length and athleticism as a team, but they couldn't match Payne.
-- Derrick Nix didn't have 23 and 15 like he did against Valpo, but his 13 points (on nine shots) with eight rebounds (three offensive), were quite impressive. Nix didn't have the height advantage, but he used his strength to bang around, and MSU did a good job spreading out to try to prevent a double-team, if Memphis wanted to use one.Nix also had one assist, four steals and two turnovers.
-- Denzel Valentine stepped up big-time as MSU's backourt depth was put to the test. Valentine finished with nine points (4-for-9), six rebounds, six assists and one turnover. Everything MSU could have asked for when they needed it the most.
-- Appling had just two points on 1-for-4 shooting in 28 minutes before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Appling said his shoulder slid out and slid back in. He'll be good to go, but having some extra days off should help. From the very beginning, Memphis seemed to shadow Appling with Joe Jackson, forcing other players to run the offense. They also threw in a triangle-plus-two. Appling didn't force too much (two assists, two turnovers), and the offense did fine when it wasn't turning the ball over.
-- Branden Dawson had just one point and shot 0-for-3, but he had six rebounds (two offensive) and played good defense. He also chipped in four assists, two steals and a block, though there were also four turnovers. Like Appling, he didn't try to force too much, but still played with energy.
-- Travis Trice was mismatched in this game against players bigger than him. He had four points on 1-for-2 shooting with three rebounds, one assist, one steal and three turnovers. He wasn't great, but he was good enough when MSU needed a lot out of him.
You would think with MSU getting two points from Appling and turning the ball over 26.9 percent of the time, the offense would struggle, but that wasn't the case. The Spartans have played very well in the halfcourt offense in the tournament, and when they don't turn it over, the offense has been superb. Five different players had an assist Saturday. The defense is doing what it does.
MSU moves to 18-3 in the second game of a weekend under Izzo. Also, this:
Tom Izzo is now 30-4 against lower seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the highest win pct of any coach vs lower seeds in history (min. 15 games).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 23, 2013
That's 11 Sweet 16s in the past 16 years under Izzo.
I was surprised how many MSU fans were at The Palace, mostly because I was surprised how many Michigan fans were there for the first game. Both fanbases were loud. There were plenty of highlight-reel plays in blowout wins for both teams, and fans of both teams cheered for each other, so it was very civil and everyone went home happy. It felt a lot like the GLI.
So it's off to Indianapolis. MSU is beat up a bit, but playing at a high level. Duke and Creighton will play late Sunday night.
Two down, four to go.