TULSA, Okla. – Things couldn’t have started worse for Michigan State.
A foul 2 seconds into the game, on the one player – Nick Ward – who the Spartans could not afford to get into early trouble.
Ten straight points by Miami followed, along with a bevy of MSU turnovers. Then a double-digit deficit. The young Spartans looked visibly rattled.
That took 10 minutes. It took 10 more minutes for their freshmen to flip it entirely.
Ninth-seeded MSU went on a 30-8 run to close the opening half, using some dazzling defense to daze 8-seed Miami en route to a 78-58 blowout in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday night.
The Spartans (20-14) will face top-seeded Kansas and former MSU recruit/Detroit native Josh Jackson in Sunday’s second round of the Midwest Regional at BOK Center. Game time is yet to be determined.
Freshmen Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston combined for 57 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists. Ward made 8 of 9 from the floor for a team-high 19 points. Bridges finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Langford added 13 points, 10 of them in the second half.
The Spartans shot 56.6% after struggling at the outset.
Ja’Quan Newton scored 16 points to lead Miami (21-12). Davon Reed added 12 and Bruce Brown had 11. MSU outscored the Hurricanes, 40-28, in the paint and had 17 second-chance points on 10 offensive rebounds.
Things started poorly for MSU.
Ward picked up his first foul 2 seconds into the game, fighting for the ball after the jump tip. Miami capitalized on their trepidation, scoring the game’s first 10 points and converting five MSU turnovers in the first 6:48 into 10 points. A Brown steal and breakaway dunk prompted Izzo to call a timeout. The Hurricanes led by 12 points in easy fashion.
MSU’s Matt McQuaid drained a three-pointer to briefly stem the damage. After an Ebuka Izundu dunk over Kenny Goins, the MSU sophomore forward turned it over at the other end going into the media time-out with 11:46 left in the period. It was the Spartans’ sixth giveaway. They had made just 3 of 9 shots. Miami was 8-for-14 and led, 19-8.
But the Spartans survived the Hurricanes’ landfall and responded.
Bridges took a pass from Langford for a reverse layup with 10:38 to go, sparking the 30-8 closing run to the half in which the Spartans made 11 of their final 18 shots. The turnovers vanished, just one in the final 11:46. They also held the Hurricanes to just 3 of 12 shooting after their hot start.
Ward returned and had 11 points at halftime, Bridges had nine, and Alvin Ellis had five points and six rebounds. The senior’s three-point play with 34.6 seconds before halftime sent MSU into the locker room leading, 38-27.
The Spartans poured it on to open the second half, with Langford scoring nine of their first 11 points. MSU’s lead swelled to 17 just 5 minutes into the half and grew to as many as 23.
Next up is Kansas (29-4), which defeated UC Davis, 100-62, in the earlier game Friday night in Tulsa. The Jayhawks had a strong fan contingent, which will make a trip to the Sweet 16 even more difficult.