DETROIT – With Purdue and Butler advancing in the day session on Friday, the night session at Little Caesars Arena saw the “home” team take to the floor as Michigan State faced a senior latent Bucknell team while the final game of the day had Syracuse battle Texas Christian making their first visit to the Field of 68 since 1998.
Here is a look at their games of the night session
MICHIGAN STATE 82 – BUCKNELL 78
One day before Saint Patrick’s Day, the color green was the color of choice inside Little Caesars Arena as the Michigan State Spartans defeated the Bison of Bucknell 82-78 in a first round game in the Midwest region Friday night to advance to the second round on Sunday afternoon.
The final score however did not indicate the dominance of Michigan State (29-4) The third seeded Spartans a had 16-point lead with 2:52 remaining. Bucknell (25-9) the fourteenth seed in the Midwest, finished the game on a 19-7 run with a three pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer completed the scoring.
“It was a game that I thought was one of the more bizarre — I thought we were playing Purdue. It was a fistfight. It was physical. It was kind of out of control.” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought we did some very, very, very good things when we had the 11-point lead.”
“I thought for the most part the second half we played very, very well even defensively. And I thought offensively we moved the ball very well and even missed some good shots. So considering the lay-off, I thought we were pretty sharp in maybe 30 minutes of the game but when we weren’t sharp, it was really disappointing how we — it wasn’t one mistake, it was like 3s and 4s and that’s got to change if we’re going to be moving on.”
Sophomore Miles Bridges led MSU with 29 points with nine rebounds and four assists. Sophomore Josh Langford had 22 with four boards while Cassius Winston had a double-double 11 points and 10 assists.
“I thought our guys competed and never backed down” Bison head man Nathan Davis said. “Every game you go into you say if you are going to get beat you want the other team to just play better than you did. I don’t think our guys have anything to hang their heads over.”
Senior Zach Thomas led Bucknell, the Patriot League regular season and tournament champions, with 27 points and five rebounds. Fellow senior Stephen Brown had 20 with three assists.
In the first half, Michigan State opened a pair of nine point leads the last being 23-12 at the 10:02 mark when Langford connected on a three from the right arc.
The Bison, who took West Virginia down to the wire in their first round game in last year’s tournament before falling to the Mountaineers, then then took a one-point lead on three occasions the last being 28-27 at the 5:24 mark on a three from the left arc by Thomas who had 20 points in the opening period going six-of-eleven from the field and five-of-six from the free throw line.
MSU then used a 14-5 spurt to open a 41-33 lead at the 2:09 mark when Langford, who had 15 points in the first half, connected on a jumper from the left wing and took a four-point advantage in to halftime 44-40.
It was an excellent half of basketball with the Spartans hitting 19-of-32 from the floor (59.4%) and Bucknell was almost at 50 percent themselves (13-of-27 48.1%) while the Bison committed just three turnovers and MSU had only five.
The second half started with the Green and White, bolstered most of the 20,000 fans started to take control.
With MSU leading 46-43 just 90 seconds into the period when Brown split a pair of free throws. The Spartans outscored Bucknell 12-4 58-48 lead with 9:48 remaining when Bridges scored on an alley-oop.
The Spartans lead would into fall below double digits until the final moments in the game. Their lead grew to as much as 18-points 72-54 with 4:16 remaining on a pair of foul shots by Jaren Jackson Jr.
Tempers finally got the most of Bucknell. With 6:10 remaining, Thomas was called for a technical foul. In college basketball, if a player incurs a technical foul, it is also a personal foul. For Thomas, it was his fifth personal foul leaving the game scoring only seven second half points.
Davis was beside himself as the started to give the officials a piece of his mind. Coming out onto the court to show his displeasure of the technical foul on Thomas.
When asked about that passage of play, Thomas said “I drove from the top of the key and bounced the ball back to Nana (senior Foulland) and thought he was fouled. It was a physical game and I said “What are you watching?” Apparently he (the official) heard me and he did not like it. I didn’t disagree with the call. At least warm me or something.”
When asked if the officials gave an explanation of the technical foul on Thomas, Davis replied “no”
For the Bison, and their three seniors Thomas, Foulland, and Brown, it ended a phenomenal stretch for the school from Central Pennsylvania as they won consecutive Patriot League regular season and tournament titles.
For the Spartans they advance to the second round where they were stopped last season by Kansas.
SYRACUSE 57 – TEXAS CHRISTIAN 52
The final game of the day saw the Orange advance to the second round as they outlasted the Horned Frogs and set themselves up with a date with Michigan State on Sunday afternoon.
A close game throughout. The contest was played within a span of ten total points before the Orange, who many believe was the 68th and final team to make it into the field, hit three of four foul shots to secure the victory.
“I thought that our defense was really good tonight, the whole game” SU Head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We just had trouble getting things going on offense. And the last three possessions we just decided to go with Oshae (freshman Brisset).
“They (TCU) didn’t get any easy shots the whole game. And I thought that was the difference. We did a good job on the boards and didn’t turn the ball over. It was a really good win.”
Syracuse, the eleventh seed in the Midwest Regional, (22-13) was led by Marek Dolezaj with 17 points while Brisset added 13 with nine rebounds, a steal and three blocked shots.
TCU (21-12) the sixth seed in the Midwest, were led by senior Kendrick Williams with 14 points and eight rebounds while Vladimir Broadziansky who had 13 with four rebounds and two blocked shots.
“We didn’t get it done tonight” Horned Frogs head man Jamie Dixon said. “we didn’t play as well as I had thought we would.
Both teams started slowly as Syracuse playing just two days before in the First Four games defeating Arizona State while TCU, who were making their first visit to the tournament since 1998 when they were still in the Southwest Conference, could not figure out the Orange two-three zone defense.
The Orange got the first breakthrough as they opened a seven-point lead which proved to be the game’s biggest differential, at the 6:06 mark on a three from the right arc by Dolezaj.
At the end of the first half, the Horned Frogs scored eight unanswered points to take a 28-27 lead at intermission.
When the second half began, TCU held its slim margin holding the advantage for the first half of the second period before SU took the lead for good on a three-pointer from the right arc by Howard with 9:28 remaining.
Even though Syracuse had the lead and control of the game, TCU just would not go away and closed to within a single point 48-47 when Brodziansky hit jumper from the left wins with 4:13 remaining.
It would be the closest the Horned Frogs would get for the remainder of the game as Syracuse built a five-point lead with 1:24 remaining on a pair of baskets the first a driving layup by Brisset and a short jumper in the lane by Howard sending the Orange into the second round and A Sunday meeting with the Spartans.
When asked about the final moments, Howard said “We just wanted to stay poised down the stretch. We didn’t want to get frustrated or start to force anything. They did a great job of keeping our guards out of the paint, kind of levelling up in the paint with the help side. And Marek had a great game today. And Oshae, he was great down the stretch, passed guys, some big free throws again. And kudos to TCU. They played a hard game. But I just think our confidence and poise got us through.”
Statistically speaking, neither team shot the ball well with TCU being just a little bit better at 39.6% (19-of-48) and Syracuse was 21-of-57 (36.8%) The Orange won the rebound battle narrowly 37-34 and committed just seven turnovers. In addition, they had 12 offensive rebounds that helped them with 11 second-chance points.
Sunday’s finale will match two Hall of Fame Coaches in Izzo and Boeheim. They have not in the regular season since 2010 when the Orange prevailed 72-58 at the Legends Classic in Atlantic City.
Their last meeting in the tournament since 2000 when the Spartans led by Mateen Cleaves and Charlie Bell beat the Orange up Interstate 75 in Auburn Hills 75-58 en route to the National Championship.
Boeheim has gotten the better of Izzo in four of their five meetings. However it might be a neutral floor but the crowd will definitely be partisan in favor of the Green and White.
It should be a lot of fun