Travis Trice, Michigan State hold off Oklahoma to advance to Elite Eight
When Michigan State reached the Big Ten tournament final and went wire-to-wire with Wisconsin before falling in overtime, the main question was obvious: Were the Spartans hitting their stride just in time for another deep NCAA run?
Michigan State hadn't quite been itself this year, going 21–10 in the regular season and losing to Texas Southern in December. It wasn't too long ago that people were talking about this team possibly being on the bubble. Strong play down the stretch eventually earned the Spartans a No. 7 seed.
But this team is coached by Tom Izzo, and you don't bet against Tom Izzo in March. No. 3 seed Oklahoma was the latest to learn that on Friday night, as Michigan State took down the Sooners 62-58 just five days after knocking off No. 2 seed Virginia.
It didn't look like the Spartans' night early on, as Oklahoma built a 10-point lead and MSU struggled to find its way on offense. With 3:28 remaining in the first half the Sooners still led by 10, until Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes made back-to-back threes to close to 31-27 at halftime.
Michigan State tied the game about five minutes into the second half and took its first lead on a jumper by Branden Dawson with 9:30 remaining. That set up a wild game down the stretch, but MSU never lost control of the lead in the final seven minutes.
Travis Trice and Buddy Hield were predictably the stars of the night, with the two upperclassman battling it out on the big stage. Both were right in the thick of things late, with Trice scoring nine of Michigan State's final 11 points and Hield hitting a three with one minute remaining that cut the deficit to 58-56. Trice poured in 24 points for the game while Hield added 21 points and six rebounds.
Michigan State is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country and started no differently on Friday, making just three of its first 10 from the charity stripe. But the Spartans did make them when the game was on the line, going a perfect 6 of 6 in the final two minutes. That helped overcome the fact that the Sooners shot 14 of 16 from the free throw line for the game.
The Spartans now stand one win away from the Final Four, set to face another team that had a bit of a surprising ride to the Elite Eight in Louisville. Last season, Michigan State was in the same position and fell to eventual champion UConn. Will a No. 7 seed—this time the Spartans—reach college basketball's final weekend for the second year in a row?