GREENVILLE, S.C. — Michigan State survived a 40-minute battle with Davidson to win 74-73 and advance to play Duke in the round of 32 on Sunday.
The 10th-seeded Wildcats led for nearly 8½ minutes, building a lead as large as five with 6:51 left in the game. The Spartans were able to rally, however, putting together a 16-3 run that saw Davidson go scoreless for more than 2½ minutes down the stretch.
While most underdogs wilt under the pressure of a late-game run by the favorite, Davidson never went away, missing two shots at a game-changing 3-pointer down four with 35 seconds left. Davidson then closed on an 8-3 run to cut the final margin to one and force Michigan State to hit free throws and hold on for the win.
“It was a hell of a basketball game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We made our share of mistakes and made our share of great plays. It was a roller coaster, but that was one hell of a team we beat. I was impressed, but I was impressed with us too.”
“I’m heartbroken for our guys,” said Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
Michigan State was carried by Joey Hauser, who hit his first eight shots and finished with 27 points, 10 more than his previous high scoring night for the season. He had been held to single digits in his last eight games and 12 of the last 13, including a scoreless outing his last game in the Big Ten Tournament. Hauser hit 9 of 12 from the field and 4 of 6 from 3, adding a team-high eight rebounds.
“It’s a new season,” Hauser said. “That’s the beauty of this tournament. Anything can happen. Offensively, I’ve been struggling. I’m trying to just let it fly and not worry about missing shots. Tonight, I let that happen, and good things happened.”
A.J. Hoggard and Gabe Brown added double-figure nights for the Spartans.
“The things Joey did the whole game freed up other people,” Hoggard said. “He was hitting shots all over the court. They couldn’t double us as much with him on fire all night.”
Davidson had four players in double figures, led by Luka Brajkovic, who had 18 on 8-of-10 shooting. Sam Mennenga added 15.
“We always thought we were right there until the last second,” said Brajkovic. “It’s just hard. We really gave everything on the court.”
The win earns Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo one more matchup with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K is 12-3 against Izzo, although Michigan State has won two of the last three, including beating a Duke team that had Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett in 2019 with a Final Four bid at stake.
“I like the game,” Izzo said. “I just don’t like the record in that matchup over the years. I’ve got to be his favorite coach because they’ve beaten us like a drum.”
Izzo and the Spartans will be ready to scrap after getting a tough fight from the Wildcats until the final buzzer.
“We got into the center of the ring, and we fought,” said McKillop. “We got knocked down a few times, but we stayed in the center of the ring. We just ran out of time. I could not be prouder of my guys.”