Michigan State fell behind by a touchdown and field goal before scoring, and the NCAA Tournament first-round game against Miami had the makings of a blowout.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Miami’s rout. The Hurricanes got re-routed.
Michigan State recovered from the early deficit and never let up in a 78-58 victory. The Spartans, a No. 9 seed, move on to the Midwest Region second round and will meet top-seeded Kansas on Sunday.
The meeting between the Spartans and Jayhawks will be the third in NCAA Tournament history with the previous two coming in Sweet 16 encounters. Michigan State won in 2009, Kansas in 1986.
Once the Spartans started making shots on Friday against Miami, they never let up. Michigan State pulled even for the first time at 21-21 on a layup by freshman Miles Bridges, went ahead 25-23 on a basket by Alvin Ellis III and never were caught.
“Their defense really picked up,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga. “Once the momentum shifted from our side to their side we could never get it back.”
The lead expanded to 11 at halftime and grew to as many 23 in the second half as the Spartans never cooled off.
Michigan State battled through injuries and a difficult early-season schedule and brought a 19-14 record into the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s not your typical Michigan State road to the NCAA Tournament,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “We’ve been feeling like it’s one and done for us for a while.”
But the Spartans also brought a long memory. The program was embarrassed by last year’s first-round exit as a No. 2 seed at the hands of Middle Tennessee State.
Michigan State was nothing like that team on Friday — at least after the game’s first few minutes.