No. 4 Michigan State wears down UConn
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Too big and too powerful down low, No. 4 Michigan State cruised to a 77-57 victory over Connecticut in the second round of the PK80 on Friday.
The Spartans (4-1) dominated down low, outscoring the Huskies 40-14 in the paint while Cassius Winston provided the outside threat.
Winston finished with 28 points on 12-for-15 shooting with four 3-pointers. Nick Ward added 11 points and nine rebounds while Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“Cassius played the best game of his career here,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “Cassius was really good offensively and that has happened a lot in his career, but I think he is getting better defensively.”
Michigan State star Miles Bridges returned from an ankle injury to score six points in 17 minutes.
Even with the win, Izzo was not very pleased with his team -- citing many ways they can and must improve if they’re going to make a run deep into March.
“I can’t say that I am not disappointed in my team. We are not getting the ball into Nick (Ward) like we should and our wings did not play as well offensively as they did defensively,” Izzo said. “Pleased with the win, pleased that we are improving defensively and pleased with our turnovers.”
Trailing for the entire second half, UConn (4-1) refused to go away easily. Jalen Adams and Terry Larrier did everything they could to keep the Huskies in the game, combining for 26 of UConn’s 30 points in the half.
In the end, the Spartans’ combination of Ward and Jackson was too much down low as Michigan State opened up a double-digit lead with 6:58 to play and cruised from there.
Adams finished with a team-high 22 points while Larrier added 18. Alterique Gilbert finished with 10 points as these three players (Adams, Larrier and Gilbert) combined to score 50 of UConn’s 57 points.
The Spartans shot 32 of 66 (48.5 percent) from the field while holding the Huskies to 20 of 57 (35.1 percent).
Adams got UConn off on the right foot to begin the game. He hit three 3-pointers as the Huskies seized an 18-12 lead halfway through the opening half.
Michigan State came back, going on an 8-1 run over the next two minutes, punctuated by a Jackson. 3-pointer for a 20-19 lead.
The Spartans kept the lead the rest of the half, in large part because of their physical style of play in the paint. Instead of settling for 3-pointers, they pounded the ball inside, where they had the massive size advantage.
Michigan State outscored UConn 16-6 in the paint, shooting the ball 30 times from inside the 3-point line, compared to 15 times by the Huskies. UConn stayed alive by attacking the rim, finishing the half 8 of 9 from the charity stripe.
The Spartans will face North Carolina in the championship game of the Victory bracket on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. UConn will face Arkansas at 12 p.m. on Sunday.
NOTES: Michigan State G Miles Bridges returned from an ankle sprain. ... Bridges is expected to be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. ... Michigan State’s Cassious Winston’s 28 points were a career high. ... UConn’s starting frontcourt of Tyler Polley and David Onuorah was held scoreless. ... Only five Huskies scored in the game.