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Rapid Reax: Michigan St. 65, St. Louis 61

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Instant analysis of Michigan State's 65-61 win over Saint Louis.

Overview: This matchup featured two of the top coaches in the game.

Rick Majerus and Tom Izzo were at their best Sunday, when the Spartans earned a victory over the Billikens at Nationwide Arena.

In the first half, the Spartans capitalized off their size advantage and earned a 12-4 edge in the paint. They shot 48 percent from the field before halftime. Saint Louis struggled (23.8 percent from the field in the first half, 2-for-11 from beyond the arc).

But the Spartans squandered possessions with nine first-half turnovers. They had a 26-21 lead at halftime.

Then they started rolling in the second half.

A Keith Appling layup gave the Spartans a 45-34 lead with 11:42 to play.

Game over, right? Wrong.

Majerus’ squad never quit.

A 12-4 run closed the gap. Jordair Jett hit a pair of free throws with 5:34 to go cut Michigan State’s lead to three points (49-46). Suddenly, the atmosphere at Nationwide Arena changed dramatically as Billikens fans started believing again.

A Kwamain Mitchell layup with 3:18 to play resulted in a 53-51 deficit for Saint Louis.

But the Spartans never lost their composure.

Draymond Green hit a jump shot and then blocked Cory Remekun’s layup on the other end. Appling drained a 3-pointer off a Green assist. Austin Thornton hit a pair of free throws and just like that, the Spartans had a seven-point advantage with 1:15 to play.

Saint Louis never stopped fighting. A 3-pointer with 8 seconds to go left the Billkens with a 64-61 deficit to overcome. But Thornton hit 1 of 2 free throws and Mitchell missed a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds to go.

Turning point: That 12-4 run in the second half changed the game. Saint Louis had a legitimate chance to pull off the upset, but the Billikens shouldn’t be disappointed. They lost to a team that’s looked as good as every team in the field thus far, other than Kentucky.

Key player: Take a guess. Starts with Draymond. Rhymes with “mean.” Yes, Green did it again. The All-America forward had 16 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. Appling scored a game-high 19 points.

Key stat: Saint Louis shot 35.3 percent from the field. The Spartans committed two turnovers after halftime.

Miscellaneous: In the second half, Green played point guard in stretches. He even wiped up a wet spot on the floor. Why can’t he play in the NBA? … Majerus did some amazing things with this Saint Louis team this year. One of the best in the business.

What’s next: Michigan State will face Louisville, a 4-seed, in the Sweet 16 in Phoenix.