DETROIT — What a nail biter! The Michigan State vs. Syracuse game was close up until the very end. Fans cheered loudly “Go Green! Go White!” and it could be heard throughout the whole arena. The total attendance was 20,360 on Sunday inside Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
The Syracuse Orange outlasted the Michigan State Spartans by a final score of 55-53. MSU missed their last 13 field goals and could not get the ball into the basket. That means the Spartans are going home without a slot in the Sweet 16.
“Our defense has been good this whole tournament all the way,” said Syracuse Coach Jim Boehiem. “It’s obviously been the key for us. We wanted to get to their shooters, and we did a great job of that. They made two bank shots, 3s and we were still able to persevere — this team perseveres through no matter what happens.”
Tyus Battle led Syracuse with 17 total points including four field goals and one rebound. Other top players for Syracuse included Oshae Brissett with 15 total points and nine rebounds and Frank Howard who put up 13 total points including five field goals and two rebounds.
“It means a lot for us,” Battle said. “I mean, we’ve just been fighting an entire year. We’re constantly trying to prove ourselves in this tournament. And I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job with that so far. They’re a very good Michigan State team, well-coached, very good players. And come out here, it’s practically a home-court advantage, and to come out with a win is pretty impressive.”
Meanwhile, Cassius Winston led Michigan State with 15 total points, four field goals, three 3-pointers and one rebound. Other top players for MSU included Miles Bridges with 11 total points, four field goals, three 3-pointers and 6 rebounds and Nick Ward who put up 10 points for the Spartans including four field goals and five rebounds.
“It is gut wrenching because we put our everything into this whole season,” said Michigan State forward Nick Ward. “For it to get taken away in the second game, it hurts. You know, we’ll live to fight another day. We’ll be fine next year.”
There were several lead changes throughout the second half. First, Michigan State then seconds later Syracuse was back in the lead. It went back and forth all game long.
“It’s real tough, but I thought we had a great season,” said Michigan State guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. “Obviously, our plans was to win the national championship. We didn’t win. But like I told the guys after the game, it’s part of life. It hurts. It sucks when you lose a game and don’t have anymore but nobody on our team is battling cancer, nobody is fighting for their life…I’m so proud of these guys and I’m proud to be a part of this program for the four years of my life. I just told everybody to walk out of here with their heads up high.”
With only seconds left on the clock before halftime, Matt McQuaid threw a three-pointer for the Spartans at the buzzer. It reminded me of Saturday night’s Michigan Wolverines game in which Freshman Jordan Poole threw a three-pointer to win the game.
“We passed up a lot of shots we should have took,” said Michigan State forward Ben Carter. “At the end of the day, we’re here to win. I don’t know what we shot for 3, but it wasn’t very well. We need to be able to make 35-40 percent of those and we didn’t do those tonight.”
At the half, Michigan State led by a score of 25-22. Nick Ward and Cassius Winston both had six points on the board. Top scorer Miles Bridges was struggling with only four points on the board. Meanwhile, Frank Howard had nine points for Syracuse and Oshae Brissett scored seven points.
This is the sixth time in the last seven years that MSU has reached the second round. Sophomore Miles Bridges is one of only four players in the country averaging at least 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.8 blocked shots per game. This is only the second time that the Spartans will play the Syracuse Orange in the NCAA tournament. Their last meeting was in the 2000 Midwest Regional Semifinals when MSU won by a score of 75-58.
Syracuse beat Arizona State, 60-56 in the First Four to advance to the first round. Then, the Orange beat TCU on Friday night by a score of 57-52. Sophomore guard Tyus Battle leads the team in scoring with an average of 19.7 points per game. Other star players include freshman forward Oshae Brissett with 14.9 points per game and junior guard Frank Howard with 14.9 points per game.
Once again, Syracuse beat Michigan State by a final score of 55-53. They will advance to the Sweet 16 to face Duke in Omaha on Friday, March 23.