TULSA, Okla. - Michigan State’s hopes of knocking off No. 1 seed Kansas fizzled in the last 10 minutes of the second half as the Spartans dropped a 90-70 decision to the Jayhawks in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas (30-4) finished the game on a 21-6 run, turning a tight game into a wide margin of victory.
"The only shame of it to me is that it wasn't a 20-point event," Tom Izzo said. "Yet the better team won tonight.
"We did a good job on defense for most of the night. Then the gaps (on defense) started getting a little bigger as we started getting tired and we started missing shots."
Michigan State was seeking its 14th Sweet 16 under Izzo, but didn’t have the horsepower to stay with Kansas’ combination of national Player of the Year candidate point guard Frank Mason and pending NBA Lottery pick Josh Jackson.
"We did a good enough job of transition defense and a great job of defensive rebounding," said Kansas coach Bill Self.
Jackson, a Detroit native who picked Kansas over MSU last spring, had 23 points for Kansas. Mason had 20 points, but his ability to break down Matt McQuaid off the dribble at the outset of Kansas’ key run proved to be too difficult to stop. McQuaid was guarding Mason because TumTum Nairn was battling a lower body injury and point guard Cassius Winston wasn't going to entrusted to guard the super-quick Jayhawk guard.
Improving foot-quickness and defensive ability will be a key off-season objective for the otherwise effective Winston.
MSU stayed within six points of the Jayhawks for most of the game, and cut it to 69-64 on a McQuaid 3-pointer with 7:10 remaining. But Kansas scored on its next five possessions to stretch the lead to 80-77.
Michigan State’s Miles Bridges fought through a first-half hip injury, reported to be a stinger, to lead the Spartans with 22 points. Nick Ward had 13 points but battled foul trouble midway through the second half when the Jayhawks made their separation run.
McQuaid finished with 9 points and Josh Langford had 10.
Kansas out-rebounded Michigan State 36-28.
Kansas advances to the Midwest Regional Semifinals where the Jayhawks will play Big Ten regular season champ Purdue.
Michigan State finishes the season 20-15 overall.
Self on Izzo after the game: "There's a lot of guys out there that I think are hard to beat and he's at the top of the list. They run a ton of stuff and they obviously are tough and don't give up easy baskets you are to earn everything. Typical Big Ten.
"It’s kind of grown into a little national rivalry. There’s a lot of guys that do it he right way in our business but he is certainly one of them."
After the game, Bridges said he would discuss his future with his mother and Izzo, and the possibility of joining the NBA Draft this spring.
Izzo said he would encourage him to go to the NBA, "if that’s what I think is best for him and his family and his situation. But I have no worries that he won’t make the right decision. I have no worries that somebody will be influencing him either way. He’s going to do what he wants to do and should do. I think he will look at it the right way and make the right decision. I don’t think he will be dragging it on. He’s not going to decide this week. But Miles is unique. If he’s not here another year, we’re blessed. If he is here another year, we’re lucky.”
Izzo on when the injury happened: "I thought it was like poetic justice, is it going to end like it started, with the injuries?"— Jim Comparoni (@JimComparoni) March 20, 2017
Bridges: "I couldn't get up like I wanted to. But I had to fight through for my team. That wouldn't have kept me out for the world."— Jim Comparoni (@JimComparoni) March 20, 2017
Izzo on Bridges: "I wouldn't trade my guy for the world."— Jim Comparoni (@JimComparoni) March 20, 2017
Bridges: "I caught an elbow on the hip. I was kind of slow when I was on defense. I couldn't make sharp movements."— Jim Comparoni (@JimComparoni) March 20, 2017
Izzo confirms that Bridges' injury was a hip pointer, "and still battled through it."— Jim Comparoni (@JimComparoni) March 20, 2017
Izzo said personnel decisions earlier in the year were done to prepare the team to try to "win games like these."— Jim Comparoni (@JimComparoni) March 20, 2017
Izzo: "I have no interest in winning games. I have interest in winning championships," when talking about various early-season decisions.— Jim Comparoni (@JimComparoni) March 20, 2017
Izzo: "The only shame of it for me is that it wasn't a 20-point event, yet the better team won tonight."— Jim Comparoni (@JimComparoni) March 20, 2017
Izzo: "The gaps (on defense) started getting a little bigger as we started getting tired and we started missing shots."— Jim Comparoni (@JimComparoni) March 20, 2017