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NCAA Tournament First Four: Michigan State collapses in second half, defeated by UCLA 86-80 in overtime

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The Spartans make an early exit from the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

UCLA v Michigan State Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Michigan State Spartans opened NCAA Tournament play in the First Four round against the UCLA Bruins, and after a strong first half, blew a big lead in the second half and eventually lost the contest. The game went into overtime and the Spartans were defeated by a final score of 86-80. UCLA will advance to play the BYU Cougars in the Round of 64 on Saturday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, while Michigan State has to go home early.

Michigan State got off to a quick start and dominated the first half. The two teams traded buckets in the first eight minutes of action, but with the score tied at 15 apiece, the Spartans went on an 11-2 run to take a 26-17 lead with 8:15 to go in the first half. UCLA scored the next four points, but MSU stepped on the gas pedal once again and poured it on before the break.

The Spartans took a 44-33 lead into halftime. Michigan State made 17 field goals on 30 attempts (56.7 percent), including making five three-pointers on nine attempts (55.6 percent), and made all five attempts from the free-throw line as well. Meanwhile, UCLA shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half (14-for-28). The Bruins made three of their six attempts from behind the arc (50 percent) and had just three attempts from the free-throw line, making two of them.

Michigan State out-rebounded UCLA 15-10 in the first half, and had 10 assists compared to the Bruins’ four. UCLA had six turnovers, while Michigan State only had four giveaways. MSU’s bench also outscored UCLA’s bench 16-3 in the first half of play. Aaron Henry and Julius Marble led the Spartans with eight points each at the break, while Jaime Jaquez Jr. did all he could to keep the Bruins in it, with 14 points in the first 20 minutes.

There were some fiery attitudes in the first half, with Rocket Watts and Joshua Langford jawing at each other during a timeout, and later with Tom Izzo and Gabe Brown getting testy with each other heading into the locker room at halftime — a typical Michigan State exchange, as Draymond Green says.

UCLA didn’t go away easily, though, and opened the second half on a 9-2 run and then a 12-4 run to close the gap to a three-point Spartan lead at 48-45. Michigan State would eventually settle down (somewhat), scoring the next five points.

The squads continued to trade baskets from there, with UCLA eventually grabbing the lead back on a Jules Bernard layup, to make the score 67-66 in the Bruins’ favor. However, MSU then went on to score the next seven points to reclaim the lead at 73-67 with four minutes left to play. However, UCLA came back again. With the Spartans up 77-72 following a pair of Aaron Henry free throws with 1:29 to go, UCLA’s Johnny Juzang hit a pair of free throws of his own on the other end, and on the next trip down, Jaquez converted on an and-one play to tie the score at 77.

Michigan State would get a chance before regulation ended to win the game, but Henry air-balled a mid-range jumper, then UCLA missed a last-second heave and the game went to overtime. UCLA outscored MSU 44-33 in the second half — the exact opposite score of the first half.

Overtime did not go great for the Spartans, as Michigan State mustered just three points (all from Langford) in the extra period, while UCLA added nine points. The Bruins wanted it more in the end, and got the victory.

Overall, Michigan State shot 29-for-61 (47.5 percent) from the floor, including going just 12-for-31 in the second half and overtime. UCLA finished the game shooting 31-for-67 (46.3 percent), but 17-for-39 in the second half/overtime. The teams finished with 33 rebounds each. Jaquez led all scorers with 27 points, while Juzang added 23 points for UCLA. Henry led the Spartans with 18 points, while Langford had 12 points — it could be the last time we see those two in a Michigan State uniform.

Frankly, there was no excuse for the Spartans to lose this game and the second half collapse was of epic proportions. That’s a wrap on a whirlwind 2020-2021 season for the Michigan State Spartans, folks.