After falling in a 10-0 hole to start the game and then down by 11 at 19-8, the Spartans turned up the intensity of the defensive end and carried that swagger over to the offensive end of the floor as they rolled through the latter stages of the first half and cruised through the second half to a 78-58 win over Miami in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
With the win, MSU sets up a big showdown with top-seeded Kansas on Sunday in Tulsa.
The Hurricanes had zero answer for Nick Ward on either side of the ball. Ward finished with a team-high 19 points, while Miles Bridges put up 18. Joshua Langford had 13, including seven quick points early in the second half that put Miami into a hole they would never come close to fighting their way out of.
MSU outrebounded the Canes 36-23. After turning the ball over seven times in the early going and giving Miami easy buckets in transition, the Spartans turned the ball over just five more times for the rest of the game as Cassius Winston (0 turnovers) ran the point efficiently.
Spartans blowing out Hurricanes
Miles Bridges knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key and then skied in for big-time dunk on a missed Alvin Ellis jumper on the Spartans next possession. Things are on cruise control for MSU right now as they lead Miami 64-43 with 8:21 remaining.
The Hurricanes can't knock down an open shot at this point and they have no answer for MSU's ball movement on the other end of the floor. With very little bounce in their step, Miami looks like they're just counting down the time left on the clock.
Langford catches fire
The second half has started but it still looks like the same two teams that went into the break are the ones that came out of it. MSU is the team with a bounce in its step as its freshmen continue to outwork a veteran Miami squad.
Joshua Langford has seven points early in the second half and Nick Ward continues to establish himself in the paint on both sides of the ball. With 14:56 remaining, the Spartans have a commanding 49-32 lead.
MSU surges to double digit halftime lead
With 12 minutes in the first half, Miami got out to a 19-8 lead and looked like they were ready to leave the Spartans in the dust. MSU turned up the activity on defense and charged their way back into the game, using a 24-4 run over a 10-minute span to power itself to a 38-27 halftime lead.
It all started on defense for the Spartans. They were turning the ball over on offense and giving up easy points in transition to the Hurricanes. Once Tom Izzo laid into his team during a timeout, the difference in intensity on the defensive end was noticeable.
Nick Ward leads the way with 11 points and Miles Bridges has nine, but the Spartans have gotten nice contributions across the board, including five points apiece from Cassius Winston and Alvin Ellis III.
Bruce Brown and Ja'Quan Newton have nine each for the Hurricanes.
MSU is back
The Spartans are using their defense to create tempo on offense and are in the midst of an 13-2 run as they've tied the game with Miami at 21-21 with 5:37 on the clock.
Miles Bridges has nine points and is starting to get into the flow of the game instead of settling for jump shots. The Hurricanes had a great opportunity to go up big on Tom Izzo's squad early on, but they've fumbled that away with sloppy play and now we have ourselves a ballgame.
Defense keeping it close
Despite a renewed effort on the defensive end, MSU is still having trouble finding the soft spots in Miami's zone defense. Matt McQuaid and Joshua Langford have each been able to knock down a triple, but the Spartans are still struggling to find offense at the rim.
At the 7:37 mark of the first half, the Hurricanes have a 21-15 lead on Tom Izzo's team.
Miami hasn't been much better on offense over the last few minutes. They've turned the ball over seven times as well, and if the Spartans can keep up the solid play on defense, they'll be able to stay in this game by getting points in transition.
Spartans turnover woes continue
After another turnover, Miami scored in transition on a Bruce Brown dunk to take a 17-5 lead with 13:12 remaining in the first half.
The Brown dunk gives the Canes 10 points off of five MSU turnovers in the game's first seven minutes, something that has Tom Izzo screaming at his team on the sidelines.
Miles Bridges has all five points for the Spartans.
MSU falls behind early
Nick Ward picked up his first foul just two seconds into the game, MSU has turned the ball over three times and Miami is leading 12-3 at the 15:50 mark of the first half.
Things couldn't have started much worse for the Spartans. Ward has struggled to stay on the floor all season and MSU found itself down 10-0 before Miles Bridges hit a 3-pointer from the corner.
Spartans look to shine in second season
There's no betting against Tom Izzo in March. You can do it if you like, but odds are you're going to get burned.
After the Spartans bowed out in the round of 64 last season in a monumental upset loss to Middle Tennessee, Izzo's young squad went through a series of up and downs this year. Yet here they as the lower seeded team their first round matchup with Miami. And ya know what? That's probably just how Izzo likes it. He can play the underdog card to him team to get them ready to roll.
The three starring freshmen are going to have to play like seasoned veterans on the big stage. Miles Bridges, Nick Ward and Cassius Winston are the biggest reason this team won enough games to get into the tournament, and MSU is going to make an unexpected run to through this tournament, they're going to have to carry the load.
Miami is a streaky team. They're led by senior guard Davon Reed (15.0 ppg). Playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, they've seen a lot of good competition this season, so they'll be prepared for whatever the Spartans plan to throw at them. As long as MSU comes out calm and in control, tonight's game should go down to the wire.
MICHIGAN STATE VS. MIAMI (FLA.)
What: NCAA Tournament first-round game
When: Friday, 9:20 p.m.
Where: BOK Center, Tulsa, Okla.
TV / radio: TNT / WJR 760
Seeds / records: No. 9 Michigan State 19-14, No. 8 Miami (Fla.) 21-11