Michigan State, Nix too much for Valpo to handle down low
Valpo coach Bryce Drew was worried about Michigan State's size and athleticism entering Thursday's game -- it was justifiable. Spartans senior big man Derrick Nix had his way with the Horizon Leaguers and Tom Izzo's team coasted into the round of 32.
Third-seeded Michigan State struggled in the first few minutes, but then crushed Valpo on the glass and wound up with a comfortable 65-54 victory.
Valparaiso made just one of its first 10 shots from beyond the arc and the Spartans owned the boards with a 49-23 advantage.
Izzo's squad got contributions from just about everyone in the starting lineup, but it was the play of senior big man Derrick Nix early in the second half that helped make certain the Crusaders would never make the outcome in question. Nix scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first 10 minutes after the break and finished the game with 23 points and 15 boards.
Valpo was overmatched, and you could almost tell one day earlier that Bryce Drew was well aware his team wouldn't be able to handle the Spartans' size and athleticism. The team's star, Ryan Broekhoff, was just 2 for 11 from the field and finished with just eight points.
Now Izzo, who is 17-3 in turnaround games in the NCAA tourney, will get the winner of Thursday afternoon's Memphis-Saint Mary's matchup. The Gaels might bring more of what we saw from Valpo, while Josh Pastner's Tigers -- if they can get past Matthew Dellavedova -- have the size, athleticism and overall talent -- to play with Michigan State.
A win would give Izzo and the Spartans their fifth Sweet 16 appearance in the last six years.
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