Auburn Hills, MI (Sporting Alert) — Slow to fast, that was how the Michigan State Spartans started their 2013 NCAA March Madness campaign.
No. 3 Michigan State (26-8) pulled away from Valparaiso midway through the first half and kept going on their way to making a winning start to the NCAA tournament, following the 65-54 result on Thursday.
Star Derrick Nix scored 23 points and pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds in the win, while Keith Appling had 15 points and six boards.
Ben Boggs led the Valparaiso Crusaders (26-8) with 15 points, as his team was no match for the third seed.
Both teams struggled the shoot the ball in the opening nine-minutes, but the Spartans got their act together and used a 14-0 run to open up a huge lead and took a 35-18 first half advantage at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The run was sparked by back-to-back three-pointers from Gary Harris and Travis Trice, after the Michigan State began to move the ball and the game favourites ended the game with a 27-10 run.
“We missed a couple of lapups early, but in between that we got some ball movement and things got much better,” head coach Tom Izzo said.
Erik Buggs finished with 14 points and Matt Kenney added 10 for Valparaiso who were held scoreless for over six-minutes at one point in the first half between 8:38 (when Ryan Broekhoff knocked down a pair of free throws) to 2:33.
Down 27, the Crusaders made a run for it down the stretch to cut it to 11 points, but it was little too late.
Michigan State will now take on the winner of the Saint Mary’s and Memphis game.