COLUMBUS, Ohio – Tom Izzo and Michigan State basketball are headed back to the Sweet 16.
Thanks to a great team effort by the Spartans and a brutal 12-minute display in an all-out fistfight with Marquette.
Tyson Walker took over.
A.J. Hogarth pushes the wrong issue in setting things up.
Joey Houser had a crucial 3-pointer on a day where no outside shots fell.
Maddy Sissoko blocked a pair of shots and Malik Hall hauled in rebounds.
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Walker scored 15 of his 23 points in the final to outlast seventh-seeded MSU 69-60 on Sunday night at Nationwide Arena.
“We put it all together, offensively and defensively. We made plays,” said Walker, who had seven points in the final 1:16, including his first dunk after a steal with 40 seconds left. “We showed it early, but not for long. When it got real close, we stuck together. People made big shots, we got big rebounds, we got stops.”
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That sends the Spartans (21-12) to the Sweet 16, which begins Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York. MSU is coming off a 75-69 win over No. 6 Kentucky on Sunday in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Game time and TV network announced Sunday night.
MSU hasn’t missed the first weekend since its 2019 Final Four run and made the Sweet 16 once in six NCAA Tournaments between this season and the Spartans’ 2015 appearance.
“We’ve got a few dances left,” said Izzo, who advanced to his 15th Sweet 16 in his 25th straight NCAA tournament. “We’re going to New York. … We beat a good team. But I’m so proud of these guys for putting up with it. Because I was in the Elite Eight, I was in the Final Four. As intense and as tough a game as I’ve ever been in my career.”
Although MSU went 2-for-16 from 3-point range, Walker finished 8-for-17 from the field. Houser had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Hogarth had 13 points and four assists. Sissoko added eight points and 10 rebounds while finishing with four fouls, and he blocked a pair of shots in the final two minutes.
“I’m very happy to get this win,” Sissoko said. “It was a tough win, but I’m very happy to be back in the Sweet 16. The program is right there.”
Oliver-Maxens Propzer had 16 points and Kam Jones added 14 for Marquette (29-6), which hasn’t reached the Sweet 16 since winning the 2013 Elite Eight. MSU held Golden Eagles forward Tyler Kolek to seven points and forced six of his team’s 16 turnovers, but he also added five assists and four rebounds. Ozo Igotaro had 10 points and seven boards.
Marquette had won 10 straight games and 20 of its last 22 entering Sunday. The Golden Eagles shot just 38.5% and scored their second-fewest points of the season.
“Offensively, it’s not one of our best games,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “I think Michigan State’s aggressiveness, their physicality, hurt us. It was a lot of plays we wanted to replay. But when you play in the NCAA Tournament, you can’t replay. That was a tough pill to swallow for us.”
Things couldn’t have started worse for MSU, nor could they have turned around in a flash. Stevie Mitchell picked his pocket after Hogarth beat the Spartans tip, and the Marquette guard quickly stacked it.
But that didn’t faze the Spartans’ junior point guard, who immediately went up court, beat Maddy Sissoko for a dunk on the ensuing possession, then drove from the wing for a layup. Hoggard’s 3-pointer after a Walker jumper forced Golden Eagles coach Shaka Smart to call a timeout with 3:14 left in the game. Malik Hall followed with a layup for an 11-0 MSU run.
“They were tough,” Izzo said of Marquette’s defense. “I mean, it started stealing the ball from the first guy (from Hoggard) and they were coming at him all day. For AJ, I think that’s where he grew because I told him, he can do it. That’s when he died. Then he made two in a row. Made big plays. And I think he took some big steps and that was key.”
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MSU held the Golden Eagles without a field goal for 6:21, then went another scoreless stretch for nearly three minutes as Houser scored seven first-half points. The Spartans also converted five offensive rebounds into seven points without giving up second-chance opportunities on the other end.
That’s when Marquette made its run, changed its defensive pressure, recovered well and blew the whistle.
Hoggard was called for a foul with 5:23 left in his second and final seven minutes of the half, one of seven fouls against MSU. Marquette chipped in with six whistles in a 2:50 span, including Prosper’s dunk through Carson Cooper’s contact.
The Golden Eagles got within three points on 3-pointers from Ben Gould and Prosper, but MSU pushed its lead back to 33-28 at halftime.
The Spartans had an 18-8 edge in paint points and a 20-12 rebound edge, thanks to Hauser’s seven and Sissoko’s five.
Marquette rebounded after starting 3-for-11 from the field, making six of its last 13 attempts and four of its last six 3-point attempts. Prosper had nine points and Cam Jones had eight.
Second half team
That end-of-half momentum carried over to the Golden Eagles as Prosper drilled a pair of 3-pointers and Ozo Igotaro a layup over the first 2:10 of the second half for an 8-0 run.
“I thought our guys showed incredible character and fought back to get us to a three-point lead from the 13th down,” Smart said.
MSU meanwhile started 2-for-10 with four turnovers in the first 9½ minutes. With more than eight minutes to play, Walker-Hall-Akins-Houser were 0-for-14 from 3-point range before Hogarth hit just one attempt early in the game.
But defense and play inside the arc kept the Spartans in it. Hogarth hit the lane for a three-point play to stop the Marquette run and tie the game at 36. MSU went on a 12-6 run over the next 9:27, holding the Golden Eagles to 2-for-7 shooting. A key moment in the run came when Prosper was whistled for a flagrant foul for pulling down Houser on baseline inbounds with 8:20 to play. Houser hit a pair of free throws, MSU kept the ball, and Walker was fouled and added another pair to make it 48-42.
“I think we’ve got to hang our hats on defense, and that’s what we’ve got to do,” said Houser, who went 3-of-8 from 3-point range on just one of three. “The shots weren’t falling tonight, but we still got the job done.”
Jones drained a 3-pointer, and Sissoko, Cooper and Hogarth all picked up fouls in the fourth. Ikhotaro then scored six points but missed a free throw that would have tied it. Instead, the Spartans returned the miss, and Hogarth was fouled and split a pair to push the lead to 53-51.
MSU got a defensive stop and then Hauser finally ended MSU’s 3-point drought from the right corner. Jones answered to cut it to two, then Propser split a pair to make it a one-point game with 3:36 left.
That’s when Walker, Hogarth and their team made sure Izzo was back in the Sweet 16. New York awaits.
“It means everything,” said Walker, of Westbury, New York, on Long Island. “Growing up and seeing everything and playing in the Garden, it means a lot. … I have to give the coach some pizza now. And a carriage ride.”
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