Call the Spartans' 93-78 win at Spokane Arena a mixed bag.
SPOKANE, WASH. — There they were again, the Michigan State Spartans a nation and its leader fell in love with after one big weekend.
They guarded, rebounded, ran and kept feeding the big man – a three-pointer for Adreian Payne, then another and another. He had 18 points, same as Delaware, and his team led by that many late in the first half of an NCAA tournament opener-turning-laugher.
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But this tournament has a way of changing momentum and testing favorites, and the Fightin' Blue Hens had the lead all the way down to five by early in the second half, after a 21-8 run over seven minutes of game time. For that stretch, MSU looked more like the team that was swimming in questions before winning the Big Ten tournament.
So call the Spartans' 93-78 win at Spokane Arena a mixed bag, with the understanding that all NCAA wins are good wins. Payne was a monster with a career-high 41 points to set the MSU single-game NCAA tournament record, and Travis Trice came up huge in the second half – scoring 13 of his 19 points – to send East No. 4 seed MSU (27-8) to the round of 32.
BOX SCORE: Michigan State 93, Delaware 78
The Spartans will take on No. 12 seed Harvard here Saturday for the right to advance to the East regional semifinals, March 28 at New York's Madison Square Garden. Tom Izzo is looking for his 12th Sweet 16 in 17 NCAA trips.
He's also looking for his team to commit fewer fouls, or for officials to call them a bit less often, but the Spartans had no such luck against No. 13 seed Delaware (25-10). MSU committed a whopping 27 fouls in the game, with all five starters in foul trouble of varyingdegrees.
Of course, Delaware committed 19 fouls of its own and could not keep pace after getting the lead down to 44-39 two minutes into the second half.
The Blue Hens got 55 combined points from the triple-guard threat of Devon Saddler (21), Davon Usher (20) and Jarvis Threatt (14), but they couldn't get enough defensive stops to hang around and make things interesting.
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Gary Harris scored 10 points, all early in the game before fouling out, and MSU got 10 points and eight rebounds from Branden Dawson. The Spartans shot 53.6% from the floor, including 10-for-19 from three-point range.
But they also turned it over 14 times. That wasn't an issue for most of the season, it became one late in the season and it disappeared again in the conference tournament. The good news for MSU is that just four of those 14 turnovers came in the second half.
Payne's dunk with 4:15 left put him at 35 points and pushed him past Greg Kelser for MSU's single-game NCAA scoring record. Kelser had 34 points in a March 18, 1979 win over Notre Dame – a regional final victory in the first of two MSU runs to the national championship.
Payne's 40-point game was the first for MSU since Shawn Respert in 1995 against Indiana. The last player to hit 41 was Terry Furlow against Detroit in 1975.
Joe Rexrode writes for The Detroit Free Press.
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