Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 22, 2015

It's not the Sweet 16 without Michigan State, right? The Spartans took down Virginia on Sunday for the second time in as many seasons to advance to their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 and the seventh in the last eight years.

Get Tom Dienhart's rapid reaction to Michigan State's win over Virginia below.

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The star: Travis Trice was ultra-clutch in this one, hitting 7-of-15 shots (4-of-8 from 3-point land) for a game-high 23 points. The 6-0 senior also had three assists, as No. 7 Michigan State knocked out No. 2 Virginia from the Big Dance for the second season in succession. The Cavaliers were a No. 1 seed last season.

The stat: 29.8 percent. That is what Virginia shot, hitting 17-of-57 shots. That makes Michigan State?s 42.5 percent shooting (17-of-40) look robust. Even more key: The Spartans hit 6-of-12 3-pointers, while the Cavs hit 2-of-17 (11.8 percent). Credit the sticky Michigan State defense.

The key to victory: Michigan State led 23-18 at halftime, the lowest scoring half in the 2015 NCAA tourney to date. MSU shot 45 percent; UVa shot 26.7. The Spartans were hurt by two early fouls on Denzel Valentine, who scored no points in the opening 20 minutes. But despite not having Valentine for an extended stretch, MSU still led at intermission. Credit the offensive balance of the Spartans, who had Branden Dawson finish with 15 points to make up for Valentine?s four-point effort. Dawson also had nine rebounds and four blocks.

It was over when: Michigan State got off to a 15-4 lead and never really looked back. The Cavaliers cut it to 24-22 at the 18:43 mark of the second half. MSU built its lead back to 12. But No. 2 UVa was threatening late, cutting the Spartans? edge to 49-44. That?s when Travis Trice stepped up and drained a 3-pointer with 2:50 left in the game to give MSU a 52-44 lead. Game over.

What?s next: The Spartans are showing that their No. 7 seed was too low, as they are off to the Sweet 16 with a good chance to reach the Final Four when you consider No. 1 Villanova has been knocked out of the East bracket. This is the first time since 2004 that a No. 1 and No. 2 seed from the same region failed to reach the Sweet 16. MSU will play the winner of No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 11 Dayton game.

Notable: This is Michigan State?s fourth trip in a row to the Sweet 16; it?s MSU's seventh trip in the last eight years to the Sweet 16.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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.

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