Michigan State made Memphis fight for every shot and rebound in their Midwest Regional game.
The Michigan State Spartans even fought each other in one instance, but the end result was pretty predictable, and they are heading back to the Sweet Sixteen.
Freshman Gary Harris had a career-high 23 points and Adreian Payne collected 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots as Spartans reached the Sweet Sixteen for the 5th time in the last 6 seasons with a 70-48 victory over the Tigers at The Palace.
Senior center Derrick Nix, who added 13 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals for the Michigan State, was so amped that he wanted to beat up his roommate.
Nix had a heated exchange with junior guard Keith Appling in a second-half timeout and they threw towels at each other from opposite sides of the huddle.
“That’s the way it is sometimes,” Appling related. “Some guys want to win so bad that things get a little fiery at times, but at the end of the day, we’re best friends. Betting lines
“We’ve been on each other for long time and it was not anything big.”
Coach Tom Izzo expounded Nix was trying hard to get Appling to play better, but took the wrong approach. Izzo stated that it reminded him of an altercation between Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson in the hallway of The Palace in the NCAA Tournament Regionals in 2000.
Michigan State (27-8), the No. 3 seed, advanced to play the winner of Sunday’s Duke-Creighton game on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis behind the shooting of Harris and the inside ability of Payne.
Harris made 6-of-9 shots, including four 3-pointers, and 7-of-8 free throws.
“He’s got a big heart and a lot of guts,” Izzo recounted. “He wants to play in the big games and on the big stage.”
Payne bounced back from a 7-point, 6-turnover outing against Valparaiso in the contest opener on Thursday.
“After the Valpo game, I felt i didn’t play as well as I should have,” Payne said. “At the end of the game, I came in and apologized to the team about my play. I told them I would not let it happen again.”
Geron Johnson’s 16 points led 6th-seeded Memphis (31-5), which had lost only once since Dec. 15. The Tigers shot 29.7% and were out-rebounded, 49-29, allowing the Michigan State to beat 18 turnovers.
“We failed to assume they were going to come out like that, making all those shots and getting and ones but all our problems came on offensive rebounding,” Tigers guard Joe Jackson said.
“They just killed out us on the boards. Every time we had an opportunity to cut the lead, they got an offensive rebound and scored.”
The Tigers were also hurt by their 5-of-23 shooting from long range.
“If you’re making shots, it opens everything up,” Tigers coach Josh Pastner said. “We’ve been a very, very good 3-point shooting team. We’ve been shooting around 37 or 38 percent on the year and we shot 21percent.
“Our game is to space the floor and make 3s, and we’ve got good shooters. Unfortunately, we didn’t shoot well and makes it that much tougher.”