Tom Izzo's No. 3-seeded Michigan State Spartans looked as strong as they have all season on Thursday afternoon in Auburn Hills, dominating No. 14 Valparaiso 65-54 in the 2013 NCAA tournament's opening round of 64 matchup.
The upset-minded Crusaders came out strong, matching the Spartans' first eight points with eight of their own. However, Michigan State quickly flipped the switch with 11 minutes to play in the first half, going on a 24-4 run to put Valparaiso in a 20-point hole. Izzo's squad would lead 35-18 at halftime.
ESPN 100.9-FM hit the nail on the head with this tweet as the game was approaching the halftime break:
Valparaiso came out determined in the second half, and played much better, but it was unable to mount a comeback and the Horizon League champions' run at the Big Dance came to an early end.
Senior guard Ben Boggs led Valparaiso with 15 points on 3-of-4 shooting from downtown, but his effort wasn't enough to overcome teammate Ryan Broekhoff's poor performance. Broekhoff, the Crusaders' leading scorer during the regular season, finished with just eight points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Michigan State senior forward Derrick Nix was key for the Spartans, hitting 10 of 17 shots from the field to finish with 23 points and 15 rebounds for the game. Behind Nix's strong effort, the Spartans absolutely crushed the overwhelmed Crusaders on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 44-20 (via Ryan Wichers):
Michigan State is just too big for Valparaiso— Ryan Wichers (@TheBigWicks94) March 21, 2013
Nix was big-time for Michigan State on Thursday and will have to continue to be down the road if the Spartans hope to reach the Final Four from the loaded Midwest Region (via Warner Cutbill):
I knew Michigan State would be way too big for Valparaiso. No one on Valpo could even move Derrick Nix— Warner Cutbill (@WCutbill) March 21, 2013
In addition to getting pounded on the glass, Valparaiso (the sixth-best shooting team in the nation during the regular season) struggled to put the ball in the basket, shooting just 35.2 percent from the field (via Carlos J. Donado):
I really thought Valparaiso was gonna have a chance against Michigan state but they can't score! -.- #MarchMadness— Carlos J. Donado (@Tosscarli) March 21, 2013
Although it was only the second round, it's difficult to argue with John Perrotti:
i dont care if theyre only playing valparaiso, michigan state is looking pretty scary right now— John Perrotti (@PerrottiChop) March 21, 2013
Michigan State will take on the winner of No. 6 Memphis vs. No. 11 Saint Mary's on Saturday in the round of 32.
Not surprisingly, most brackets survived Thursday's opening result, according to ESPN Fantasy Sports:
95.8% of all entries picked Michigan State over Valparaiso. #MarchMadness— ESPN Fantasy Sports (@ESPNFantasy) March 21, 2013
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