March 23, 2014
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist
SPOKANE, Wash. - Michigan State punched its ticket for a 12th Sweet 16 appearance in the last 17 seasons under coach Tom Izzo just as it did its first - against a team from the Ivy League.
On Saturday night, the No. 4 seed Spartans defeated No. 12 Harvard, 80-73, to advance to the East Regional semifinals on Friday in New York. In 1998, No. 4 MSU tripped up No. 5 Princeton, 63-56, to get out of the first weekend and into the East Regional semis.
"I never keep track," Izzo said. "Those kinds of things are for retirement and I don't plan on doing that now, or in the near future.
"So someday, I'll have my grandson sitting on my lap and I'll say, Hey, your old grandpa went to 12 Sweet 16s in 17 years, and he'll say, `Who gives a damn?' And I'll probably say, You're right, and we'll move on."
GoG Notes & Quotes: Senior power forward Adreian Payne set a school-tournament record with 41 points in MSU's opening win against Delaware, but he managed just 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting from the field for an encore.
"Tonight, A.P. struggled, he really did," Izzo said. "I said, If you think that guy (Harvard coach Tommy Amaker) that I know well on the other team is not going to be sitting up nights figuring out how to make it harder on you when you scored 41 points two nights ago...
"I said, This is not going to be easy, and it was very, very difficult. Some guys on our staff said they would probably double(-team Payne). I said, No, they won't change what they do, they will just do it better and that's exactly what they did. Hats off to them."
One of the key plays of the game came when MSU was trying to protect a four-point lead with just over a minute to play. After point guard Keith Appling missed a layup, there was a scramble for the loose ball. Dawson dove after it to keep the possession alive, and in the process of tapping it to Denzel Valentine, slammed the hand he had broken earlier in the season on the court.
Although Dawson grimaced in pain, Izzo wasn't buying it.
"I think he wanted some sympathy, personally, and he hasn't been diving on the floor for six months," Izzo said. "He just wanted to enjoy the moment and he laid there a little bit. You didn't see me running out there because if it was broke I would have said, You're still playing. I'm tired of these injuries.
"I don't think he hurt it at all. I think he just hit and it was sore. You can't score that many points (26) and get hurt even if you wanted to. He's fine."
MSU did better in the foul department against Harvard (20 fouls that led to 30 free throws) than against Delaware (27 fouls, 39 free throws), but still had too many.
"There's a negative right now that I'm concerned with," Izzo said. "We're in foul trouble all the time. I question some of it; I have all year. But I also appreciate that we're just doing some things that aren't as disciplined as they need to be done."
There may be a logical reason. After winning the Big Ten Tournament the previous Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Indianapolis, the Spartans got a tough break when they were slotted for the Thursday-Saturday start in the NCAA Tournament. Making the task even more difficult was traveling to the West Coast.
"We came out and were pretty solid and then in the second half we lost some focus and turned the ball over a couple times," Valentine said. "I think guys were a little tired. That was the fifth game in nine days so I think that played a factor."
The Spartans committed just one turnover, which led to no Crimson points, in the first half, but gave up 10 for three points in the second half.
Gary Harris is three points away from becoming MSU's 45th 1,000-point scorer. ... The Spartans are 4-0 in NCAA Tournament games played in Spokane. ... Michigan State improved to 19-3 in the second game of a NCAA Tournament weekend under Izzo.