Nolan Bianchi with three quick takeaways from Michigan State's 80-63 victory over LSU in the NCAA Tournament semifinal on Friday.
That's fresh, man
This time last weekend, Aaron Henry was caught in the crossfire of a wild media firestorm when video of a spat with head coach Tom Izzo made its rounds on every morning show and Twitter account in town.
In Friday's win over LSU, Henry was the center of attention again — but this time, it was for all the right reasons. The freshman guard led the Spartans with a career-high 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting and set the tone for Michigan State with a pair of buckets that helped the Spartans jump out to an 8-0 lead at the game's start.
Fellow freshman Gabe Brown also had a breakout performance and career day, going off for a career-high 15 after averaging just 2 points this season.
With Matt McQuaid scoring just 6 points, Brown and Henry's offensive prowess wasn't just a pleasant surprise. It was a game-changer. And as Henry continues to find his jump shot, don't be surprised to see the young gun get more looks as Michigan State moves forward.
After heading to the locker room with a 12-point lead, things got uncomfortable for Michigan State in a hurry after Tre Waters, who scored a game-high 23, went off to open the second half and cut LSU's deficit to 4.
But as has been the case with this Spartan team in close games this year, Michigan State's resilience showed its face in a big way and came up with a run when it needed to. Brown and Henry hit 3-pointers and senior Kenny Goins added two more. And in the blink of an eye, the Spartans grabbed a 15-point lead before heading to the under-16 timeout.
If nothing else, Michigan State is battle-tested. That trait has won them close games, it's won them games by large margins — like in the round of 32, when it beat Minnesota by 20 after committing 22 turnovers — and Friday night, it won them the right to play in the Elite Eight on Sunday, where either Duke or Virginia Tech awaits.
LSU's outburst to start the second half aside, Michigan State controlled pretty much every aspect of this game.
The Spartans benefited from a particularly dominant first half, from which a couple key stats stand out: Michigan State out-rebounded LSU, 21-10, and picked up 10 offensive rebounds, leading to 12 second-chance points. The Spartans were also feeling it from deep, going 7-for-17 through the first 20 minutes, getting three from Cassius Winston and two more from Brown.