This is the second season in a row the Spartans lost in the Sweet 16.
Key moment: Duke went on a 9-0 run to take a 47-38 lead with 13:33 to play in the second half, benefiting from four consecutive Michigan State turnovers. Then at the 8:42 mark, Duke took the first double-digit lead of the night, 56-46, on a Rasheed Sulaimon jumper. The Blue Devils never were too seriously threatened from there on out, cruising across the finish line. Duke will play No. 1 Louisville on Sunday, the only matchup between No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Elite Eight.
Key player: Keith Appling needed to have a big game—and did. The junior point man tallied a team-high 16 points, hitting 5-of-8 shots. But Adreian Payne was the only other Spartan in double-figures with 14 for a MSU squad that nailed only 3-of-13 from beyond the arc (23 percent). Big Ten freshman of the year Gary Harris needed to play better but hit just 2-of-11 shots (0-for-3 from 3-point land) and had six points.
Key number: 92, Duke’s free-throw percentage. The Blue Devils connected on 24-of-26 from the charity stripe. Rasheed Sulaimon drained 12-of-14 freebies. This was a big difference in the game that Michigan State trailed by just one at halftime.
What’s next: Michigan State finishes 28-8 in what was a good-but-not-great season. The Spartans will bid good-bye to senior Derrick Nix, but the other key players have remaining eligibility: Keith Appling and Adreian Payne are juniors; Branden Dawson and Travis Trice are sophomores; Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine are freshmen. Next year could be even better, as long as Payne doesn’t opt to turn pro.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.