AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Quick thoughts from No. 3 Michigan State’s 65-54 win against No. 14 Valparaiso in a round of 64 game at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Overview: Valparaiso came out with energy, with focus and, for 10 minutes, a decent defensive plan for Michigan State.
Ten minutes, though, wasn’t going to give Valpo any shot in an NCAA tournament game and Michigan State made sure of it. The Spartans' defense, which has been a strength for much of the season, completely shut down the Crusaders. How bad was it? Valparaiso essentially lived on the 3-point line for much of the game, but it didn’t matter out there, too.
The Crusaders just looked flat scared to shoot unless they were wide open, and Michigan State will never give a team too many of those looks in a game. And in electing not to shoot -- there was a four-minute stretch where Valpo took, not made but took, two shots -- the Crusaders had no chance for an upset.
Turning point: Michigan State’s Adreian Payne got the ball inside and scored the bucket along with being fouled by Valparaiso’s Matt Kenney with 5:40 left in the first half. The Crusaders called a 30-second timeout to try and stop the Michigan State run, but they could not. The three-point play gave the Spartans a 25-12 lead and Valparaiso never recovered.
Key player: Michigan State forward Derrick Nix took advantage of a soft Valparaiso interior and bodied up every player the Crusaders even attempted to put on him. Even doubling him in a trap didn’t work, because he was able to find a shooter or Keith Appling on the outside to re-set the offense and give him another chance at it. Nix finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds, but if he really wanted, he could have had 20 boards.
Key stat: 2. The number of field goals Valparaiso hit over the final 10:14 of the first half. The Crusaders’ lack of scoring and, in many cases, refusal to take even somewhat open shots, was key. In the meantime, Michigan State kicked away a slow start to go on a 22-8 run to end the half and essentially make the game an exhibition the rest of the way.
Next game: Michigan State moves on to face the winner of No. 6 Memphis-No. 11 Saint Mary’s in the round of 32.