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.