WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Tom Izzo teams at Michigan State usually don't blow 14-point leads. They don't give up key rebounds and they don't airball a slew of three-pointers in crunch time.
Usually. But Thursday night, in the Spartans' First Four game with UCLA at Mackey Arena, everything went wrong down the stretch. And because of it, the Bruins won 86-80 to advance to Saturday's first round against BYU. And Michigan State's weird season – which included Tom Izzo's first losing season in the Big Ten combined with three wins over top-five teams in the final month – came to a crashing end.
It was a big win for Mick Cronin and his UCLA team, which had staggered to the finish line but played terrific down the stretch, scoring the final five points to force overtime, and then dominating in the extra period.
“The players really needed this,” Cronin said, alluding to his team having blown four late leads in succession before this game. “I’m really, really happy for the guys. We tried to turn up the heat defensively in the second half and tried to make them uncomfortable as much as we could. The kids responded.”
Late in the game, Michigan State (15-13) had three uncharacteristic turnovers, and gave up two offensive rebounds that extended UCLA possessions. And the Bruins answered on the other end to flip the script.
In overtime, Michigan State's offense was brutal. Rocket Watts missed an unnecessary three-pointer early, and Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford both missed as well.
It was a tough ending for Langford, who's been through a career full of injuries. He said this was his last game as a Spartan, his fifth year in East Lansing, and he finished with 12 points. Henry led the way with 16 points.
“Unbelievable year,” Izzo said. “I mean, the kid gave me every single thing he had. And I think it's too bad he had to go out that way, because I thought we were a good enough team to win it.
“He gave us so much. He bounced back and did so many things. It was damn near incredible the effort he put forth to come back and play after nobody gave him a chance to ever play.”
Thursday's other First Four game
- DRAKE 53, WICHITA STATE 52: In the 11-seed play-in game, Drake guard Joseph Yesufu scored 21 points and the Bulldogs won their first NCAA Tournament game in 50 years with a win over the Shockers. Both teams struggled offensively, and Wichita got a final shot, but it didn't go. Tremell Murphy, a Griffith, Ind., native, had 11 points for Drake.
- NORFOLK STATE 54, APPALACHIAN STATE 53: Jalen Hawkins came off the bench to score 24 points and Norfolk State held on for the win. Ap State went 0-for-18 from three-point range in the first half. Norfolk gets No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga next on Saturday.
- TEXAS SOUTHERN 60, MOUNT ST. MARY'S 52: John Walker scored 19 points to give Texas Southern a big win. They get No. 1 seed Michigan next on Saturday.
Full NCAA Tournament schedule
Big Ten teams Illinois, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Rutgers are all in action on Friday. For the complete NCAA Tournament schedule, including game times, TV information and the latest on the point spreads on Friday morning, CLICK HERE