It seems like it just wouldn't be March without Michigan State making an NCAA Tournament run. Saturday, the No. 3 Spartans advanced to the 11th Sweet 16 in the Tom Izzo era with a 70-48 win over No. 6 Memphis in third-round action in Auburn Hills, Mich.
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Gary Harris scored 23 points to lead the Spartans, though he was hampered by foul trouble in the second half — not that it made a difference for Michigan State. When Harris left, others picked up the slack. The Spartans outscored the Tigers in the second half, 38-19, as Adreian Payne (14 points and 10 rebounds) and Derrick Nix (13 points, eight rebounds and four steals) both scored in double figures.
But the win did not come without some turmoil. During a timeout early in the second half, Nix and Keith Appling appeared to exchange words in the huddle while Izzo was drawing up a play. Nix then snapped his towel at Appling and the two had to be separated.
That incident seemed long forgotten just moments later though, when Appling hit Payne on a lob for a thunderous dunk. That put Michigan State ahead by 13 and Memphis never threatened again.
Geron Johnson led Memphis with 16 points and Joe Jackson joined him in double figures with 12. No other Tiger had more than six points, and Memphis was outrebounded, 41-25.
The Spartans ended the game on a 14-2 run to provide the final margin.
Though Michigan State now has a few days off before facing either No. 7 Creighton or No. 2 Duke in the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis, the Spartans have to be concerned about Appling, who left the game after straining his shoulder in the second half. He was taken to the locker room to get looked at, but returned to the bench a few minutes later to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines.