5 Things We Learned from Michigan State's Win over Delaware
It was not necessarily an easy first-round game for the Michigan State Spartans, but it was a very satisfying victory for head coach Tom Izzo.
Michigan State broke open a fairly close game and rolled to a 93-78 win over upstart Delaware to advance to the round of 32.
The Spartans rode the hot shooting of Adreian Payne to pull away from the Blue Hens in Spokane, Washington. They will meet Harvard on Saturday, as the 12th-seeded Crimson upset No. 5 Cincinnati.
A Superstar Is Born
Center Adreian Payne has been one of Izzo's most dependable players all season. Going into the NCAA tournament game against Delaware, he was the Spartans' second-leading scorer this year, averaging 16.7 points per game.
He stepped out of the realm of dependable players and raised his profile with a remarkable 41-point performance. He made 10 of 15 shots from the floor, including going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. While that display was excellent, he was even better from the free-throw line. He nailed all 17 of his attempts from the charity stripe.
That remarkable showing from the free-throw line was an NCAA record.
Payne also tied Branden Dawson with eight rebounds to lead the Spartans.
He not only punished the Blue Hens, he sent a message that he could become a go-to scorer for the Spartans throughout the remainder of the NCAA tournament.
He became the first player to score 40 or more points in an NCAA tournament game since Stephen Curry accomplished the feat for Davidson in 2008.
The Spartans struggled down the homestretch of the regular season in the Big Ten, but they raised their game to a new level in the Big Ten tournament when they took home the championship.
Despite the high expectations by many in the national media, Izzo could not be sure that his team would match the proficiency level in its first NCAA tournament game that it showed last weekend. However, Izzo's players demonstrated that the performance in the Big Ten tournament was no fluke.
Michigan State had a brilliant day of shooting the ball from the field. They made 30 of 56 field-goal attempts, including going 10-of-19 from beyond the arc. It's the kind of showing that should give Izzo and his players plenty of confidence going forward.
Quality depth has long been the trademark of Izzo's best Michigan State teams, and this year's version appears to be on course to make the same statement.
While Payne will get most of the headlines and highlights, guard Travis Trice had a huge day coming off the bench. He scored 19 point on 7-of-8 shooting, including going 3-of-4 from behind the arc. He scored all of his points in 23 minutes of action and also had three rebounds.
Payne was decisive every time he got the ball and took advantage of favorable matchups against a Delaware team that had a difficult time contesting shots.
While the Spartans had a comfortable 15-point margin of victory, it was not a complete blowout. The margin probably would have been a lot bigger if they could have been more effective holding onto the ball.
Michigan State turned the ball over 14 times against Delaware, while the Blue Hens turned the ball over just eight times. Trice turned the ball over a team-high three times, while Keith Appling, Denzel Valentine, Russell Byrd and Payne had two turnovers each.
The sloppy play allowed Delaware to compete in the early part of the first half before the Spartans' skill, strength and athleticism took over.
Michigan State is going to have to do a better job of holding onto the ball as the competition gets tougher.
Banging the Boards
It was obvious the Spartans had a size and strength advantage over Delaware even before this game tipped off. Delaware regularly plays four guards and did not have the inside strength to combat the Spartans, and that became clear as the game proceeded.
In addition to Payne's big scoring day, the Spartans dominated the game on the boards. They out-rebounded the Blue Hens 38-20.
Payne and Dawson led the way with eight rebounds each, while Matt Costello had five boards. Gary Harris and Valentine had four rebounds each.
Michigan State fought hard to get the rebounds and punished the opponents on the boards.