The March Madness magic continued for the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans continued today as the team knocked off the tough defense and size of the Rick Pitino-led No. 4 Louisville Cardinals.
After being down 40-32 at halftime, the Spartans rallied to take control in the second half before fighting off a late surge by the Cardinals and using timely shots to win in overtime. Senior guard Travis Trice led the way with 17 points and five assists, with some clutch three-pointers thrown in. Denzel Valentine also chipped in with 15 points and seven rebounds.
All in all, the story of the game was Michigan State’s refusal to back down despite not having as much frontcourt athleticism and rebounding ability as its opponent. Thus, the team resorted to playing fast-paced offense and taking Louisville’s streaky guards out of the game almost entirely.
Sure enough, it worked. The Spartans shot 44 percent from the field on the day and kept great pace with the Cardinals in the rebounding, with each team finishing with 41 apiece. 20 assists and great on-court communication also kept Louisville in catch-up mode all throughout the second half and overtime.
On Louisville’s end, it was all about missed free throws. The team missed some big ones down the stretch, including a potential game-winner by sophomore big man Mangok Mathiang with just four-plus seconds remaining. On the game, the Cardinals went 20 of 29 from the charity stripe and shot just 36 percent from the floor, the entire team the victim of some tough Spartans defense. Not even 28 points from senior Wayne Blackshear could get Louisville back to the Final Four, and team scoring leader Terry Rozier was taken out of the game as he shot just 6 of 23 from the field.
Even when overtime hit, it was clear Michigan State would be the team advancing as guard Bryn Forbes drilled a three to open the extra period. This team was the better squad and simply wanted a trip to Indianapolis more.
Next comes a game against either the No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs or No. 1 Duke Blue Devils, two teams that have tremendous size and can score in bunches like the Spartans did today. Come next weekend, we’ll see just how much heart this team has left in the tank!
*Section Photo credit to Richard Barnes, USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Getty Images