AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Derrick Nix’s strength and skill were much too much for Valparaiso.
Nix had 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds to help power third-seeded Michigan State past the 14th-seeded Crusaders 65-54 on Thursday in the NCAA tournament.
The Spartans went on a 26-5 run in the first half to take control, and cruised to an easy victory.
Michigan State (26-8) will play the winner of the Memphis-St. Mary’s game on Saturday when coach Tom Izzo’s Spartans will be shooting for a spot in the round of 16 for the fifth time in six years.
The Crusaders (26-8) were no match for Michigan State in their first NCAA tourney in nine years, just as they weren’t as a first-round loser in 2000 to the eventual champion Spartans.
Valpo had enough size to match up, but didn’t have enough strength.
The Crusaders didn’t seem worried about the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Nix when asked about him the day before the game.
Valpo’s 6-8, 240-pound forward Kevin Van Wijk nonchalantly said he and his teammates faced similar players in the Horizon League. If that’s true, it didn’t seem to prepare Van Wijk and his fellow post players for Nix’s brute force, relatively nimble feet and soft hands.
Nix had nine points in the first half when he made his fourth shot to put Michigan State ahead 32-12. At that point, he had as many field goals as the Crusaders’ entire team. That basket was scored after backing down Bobby Capobianco so much that the 6-10, 245-pound forward fell on his back as if he was hit by a linebacker. Nix scored 14 in the second half, falling two points shy of matching his career high.
Van Wijk, meanwhile, missed both of his shots in the first half. He fouled out without making any of his six attempts and finishing with two points — well below his 12.7-point average. Valpo’s other post player and leading scorer, Ryan Broekhoff, scored eight points — half his average — on 2 of 11 shooting.
Erik Buggs scored 14 and Matt Kenney had 10 points for the Crusaders, whose coach Bryce Drew called as many timeouts as he could to slow down the Spartans.
It didn’t work.
While Nix dominated on the inside, Michigan State guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris gave the team offensive balance by making jumpers. Appling scored 15 points — making three 3-pointers — and Harris had 10 points.
When Valpo went to a zone early in the game when the score was tied at 8, Harris made a 3-pointer to put the Spartans ahead for good. He made another 3-pointer during the game’s decisive run, making his extra work earlier in the week pay off for him and his team.
More than an hour after Monday’s practice, Harris was back in the gym. He got a collapsed ball-return machine out of a corner by himself, wheeled it under a rim and set it up to put up some high-arcing shots. He made 52 of his first 71 shots, mostly from long range, during a personal workout thanks to a sweet stroke that has served the freshman — and the Spartans — well this season.
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/larrylage
More Related Stories
- Illinois' fracking and coal rush is a national crisis
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11