No. 9 Michigan State stifles No. 8 Mississippi State

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 22 Mar, 2024 at 01:26 AM

Credit: Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

CHARLOTTE --Tyson Walker scored 19 points and Michigan State never trailed in claiming a 69-51 victory against Mississippi State on Thursday afternoon in a first-round matchup in the NCAA Tournament's West Region.

The Spartans mostly did it with their defense, but six different players made at least one 3-point shot to boost the offense.

Jaden Akins racked up 15 points, joining Walker with three 3-pointers, and Malik Hall added 10 points.

Ninth-seeded Michigan State (20-14) meets top-seeded North Carolina in the second round on Saturday. North Carolina beat Wagner 90-62 in the first round.

"It was an old-school win for us. ... All the guys from the past would have been proud because it was a tough, rugged game, and we haven't been bringing that all the time this year, and I thought we did a helluva job," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

Izzo was happy with the intensity of his players.

"Guys were focused. You can tell when guys are focused," Izzo said. "I think I've got some seniors that don't want to go home yet, and they played like it."

Josh Hubbard scored 15 points for eighth-seeded Mississippi State (21-14), which shot 37 percent from the field and made only 6 of 27 attempts from 3-point range. The Bulldogs ended up with a season-low point total.

Mississippi State hung around, aided by a 3-pointer and dunk from reserve Shakeel Moore -- who was playing in his home state -- in the second half, but the Bulldogs couldn't keep up.

They made just one of their final 15 shots and were scoreless over the last 4:06 of the game.

"We give them credit, but at the same time, we just didn't move the ball as well as we wanted to going into the game, and we got off to a really, really poor start," Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said.

"We had a hard time keeping their guards in front of us," Jans added. "They were getting downhill on us for themselves and creating for others."

Michigan State's Xavier Booker hit a 3-pointer and Tre Holloman connected from long range to stretch the margin to 59-45 with less than 10 minutes to play.

For the game, the Spartans were charged with 16 turnovers, but they managed to force 15.

With Michigan State in control, Izzo's son, little-used Steven Izzo, entered the game off the bench in the final minute.

The Spartans were attentive defensively, limiting Mississippi State forward Tolu Smith III to 3-for-5 shooting from the floor and nine total points. He entered Thursday averaging 15.2 points per game.

"That's kind of our motto, being physical, doing the dirty work," Walker said of the Spartans' defensive effort and gritty play. "It's not like we're reinventing anything new. We've just got to do it."

Michigan State took control early in the game.

Walker hit a 3 in transition for an 18-8 lead. The Spartans, who were hurt by nine first-half turnovers, went up by 12 and withstood a scoring drought of almost five minutes to lead 31-24 at halftime. They shot 54.2 percent overall in the half.

Neither team attempted a free throw in the first half. When Mississippi State had chances at the foul line in the second half, it didn't convert often, making just half of its 10 attempts.

--Bob Sutton, Field Level Media