Michigan State’s basketball team showcased their resilience in the second half, securing a 72-62 victory over USC during the NCAA tournament. Tom Izzo’s emphasis on the small details proved crucial in the Spartans’ advancement.
A.J. Hoggard and Carson Cooper, the surprise standout, stepped up for the seventh-seeded Spartans. The team executed a 28-13 run midway through the second half and clamped down on defense, leaving the 10th-seeded Trojans scoreless for over five minutes.
Joey Hauser led the way with 17 points, including four 3-pointers, and secured eight rebounds. Hoggard, Tyson Walker, and Jaden Akins combined for 35 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists, propelling MSU (20-12) to the second round on Sunday. The Spartans will face the winner of the matchup between No. 2 seed Marquette and No. 15 Vermont, with the tipoff time and TV network to be announced after Friday’s games.
Carson Cooper emerged from the bench to score six points and grab four rebounds in 13 minutes, which helped MSU counter the Trojans’ interior game and pick-and-roll that troubled them in the first half.
Boogie Ellis, USC’s top scorer, managed only six points as the Trojans shot 34.4% in the second half. Drew Peterson scored 11 points, Joshua Morgan added 14, and Reese Dixon-Waters contributed 10 points and four rebounds for the Trojans (22-13).
First Half Battle
The Spartans started strong, with Mady Sissoko setting the tone with a dunk and a Hauser 3-pointer. Walker and Akins were aggressive, giving MSU a 9-4 lead. The Spartans’ defensive pressure limited the Trojans’ shooting, extending their lead to 24-13 with 9:08 remaining in the half.
USC fought back, using Peterson and Ellis in ball-screen actions to create easy interior looks. Morgan scored eight points during a 21-10 run, giving the Trojans a one-point lead with 1:43 left in the half. The teams entered halftime tied at 34-34.
Second Round Bound
Cooper’s presence revitalized the Spartans’ interior defense in the second half. Hauser sparked an 11-2 run with a 3-pointer, and Cooper added a dunk and a follow-jam, pushing MSU ahead 49-40. USC coach Andy Enfield called a timeout with 13:43 remaining.
USC continued to battle, but their cold shooting allowed the Spartans to extend their lead with a 15-4 run. The Trojans went scoreless for a 5:01 stretch, missing seven shots. USC narrowed the gap to nine points, but the Spartans held on, with Hauser’s free throws sealing the win and securing their place in the second round for the second consecutive season.
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Featured Image Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch