Rushed Reactions: #3 Michigan State 65, #14 Valparaiso 54Posted by Will Tucker on March 21st, 2013
Will Tucker is a RTC correspondent. Will is covering the Auburn Hills pod of the Midwest Region. You can also find him on Twitter @blrdswag.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Michigan State can make huge runs with its defense. The Spartans sleepwalked for the first 13 minutes, which underscored the sense that they don’t have elite offensive efficiency, but they do have the ability to make dramatic runs quickly with defense and the transition shooting of Gary Harris and Keith Appling.
- Gary Harris has the poise and temperament of an upperclassman. He struggled shooting the ball for most of the game and suffered a 14-minute shooting drought on either side of halftime. But Harris contributed in other ways, adding a game-high four assists and team-high two steals to accompany his 10 points and four rebounds. More importantly, he showed the patience and judgment of an upperclassman, and helped energize his team after a lethargic opening performance. Plus, the MSU crowd absolutely loves him. “Freshman of the year, right there!” a fan screamed proudly after the Big Ten FOY drained his second gorgeous three in the first half.
- Derrick Nix is going to be hard for anyone in the bottom half of the Midwest Region to stop after the way he played today. While Memphis has incredible athleticism at every position, they’ve shown vulnerabilities on the glass against big teams like Southern Miss. St. Mary’s presents a much tougher matchup with their depth and size in the front court, so Michigan State fans might be inclined to root for the Tigers to knock off the Gaels today.
Star of the Game. Derrick Nix (23 points, 15 rebounds) was a man possessed against a team with decent size that entered today ranked #34 in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. With nine offensive boards, he helped the Spartans build a +23 rebounding margin and score 14 second chance points.
Quotable. “Not every player at this tournament gets to play in their home state. Make your state proud.” — Tom Izzo before the game.
Sights & Sounds. There were quite a few enthusiastic, loud yellow shirts sprinkled around the Palace rooting for the Crusaders as they gave the Spartans a run early on. To the untrained eye (especially at my altitude), they might look like Valpo fans, but they were in fact rival Michigan fans who drove out on a snowy Thursday just to root against their archrivals. That’s a rivalry, for you. (Runner-up: member of the Valpo band standing up and taunting fans as boos reverberated through the Palace after an unpopular charge call on Adreian Payne in the second half.)
What’s Next? The Spartans will wait to face either the Memphis Tigers or Gaels of St. Mary’s, and they’ll have two days to contemplate how they let Valparaiso chisel away at a 27-point lead as much as they did. They won’t have the luxury of such a cushion against either of their Third Round opponents.