COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — On a freaky Friday of NCAA tournament upsets, Michigan State wasn’t going down.
Draymond Green wouldn’t stand for it.
Green scored 24 points in his second career tournament triple-double, Derrick Nix added 18 points and top-seeded Michigan State fought off the upset bug that took down two No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tourney, advancing in the West Regional with an 89-67 win over LIU Brooklyn on Friday night.
The Spartans (28-7) finally put away the pesky No. 16 Blackbirds (25-9) with a 14-4 run midway through the second half. Michigan State outscored LIU 47-30 after halftime.
Michigan State will play Saint Louis in the third round Sunday.
Green added 12 rebounds and 10 assists, becoming the first player to have two triple-doubles in the tournament since MSU legend Magic Johnson. The Big Ten’s player of the year didn’t have a turnover in 35 minutes and also provided some encouraging — and a few choice — words for his teammates in the second half when LIU was giving the Spartans all they could handle.
Jamal Olasewere scored 17 and Julian Boyd and C.J. Garner had 15 apiece for LIU, trying to make history by bringing down a No. 1 on the same day No. 2 seeds Missouri and Duke were beaten.
Pushed for 30 minutes by LIU, the Spartans showed down the stretch why some experts are picking coach Tom Izzo and his squad to make another Final Four appearance.
Green was the difference, and after he was pulled in the final minutes, he slapped hands with Michigan State’s muscular Spartan mascot. About the only thing he didn’t do was lead the band.
Although its roster is comprised of players from across the country, LIU Brooklyn is a bonafide New York team with the city’s toughness, street smarts and attitude.
Coach Jim Ferry was sure his team wouldn’t back down from the Big Ten big boys.
He was right. But an upset?
Up by nine in the second half, Michigan State stretched its lead to 13 when Nix, generously listed at 270 pounds, scored underneath and Green, unable to pound it inside to his teammate, knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 60-47. Boyd countered with a 3 for LIU, but after a timeout, Michigan State ripped off six in a row, opening a 66-50 lead on Wood’s layup.
Moments later, Green hit another 3 and the amiable senior skipped back on defense, flapping his arms to encourage Michigan State’s fans to cheer.
He then fed Nix for an alley-oop dunk and when Wood buried a 3-pointer to make it 74-54, fans began pouring to the exits of Nationwide Arena.
Michigan State joined the other No. 1s — Syracuse, Kentucky and North Carolina — in advancing. Top seeds are now 112-0 against No. 16s.
As the teams left the floor at halftime with Michigan State ahead just 42-37, a fan in the LIU cheering section held up a hand-painted sign that read: “Upset Alert!”
On Thursday, the scare top-seeded Syracuse got against No. 16 seed UNC-Asheville made Ferry wonder if that would hurt the Blackbirds’ chances of doing what has never been done before.
If that wasn’t enough, Missouri’s loss to No. 15 Norfolk State, a stunner that rocked the tournament earlier Friday evening and was followed by Lehigh’s shocker over Duke in another 15 vs. 2 matchup, was another reminder to the Spartans of March’s many potential pitfalls.
True to their nickname, the Blackbirds, who average nearly 82 points per game, came out flying.
Olasewere hit a 3-pointer and LIU went ahead 9-4 after C.J. Garner knocked down a jumper, causing two Michigan State fans sitting just behind the Spartans bench to shoot each other an “uh-oh” look. Yep, it was obvious the two-time defending champions from the Northeast Conference didn’t come to pose for pictures and wave to the TV cameras. They weren’t intimidated by MSU’s high-profile coach, tournament resume or history.
The Spartans led 22-14 and seemed to be settling in when Michael Culpo hit a 3-pointer for LIU before Green countered with a three-point play to give Michigan State a 25-17 lead. After LIU cut to 25-21, Izzo greeted senior guard Brandon Wood coming off the floor for a timeout.
“You’re a selfish player,” screamed Izzo, who continued to rant during the break.
Izzo knew his team was in a dogfight, and the underdog was winning.
On subsequent possessions, Izzo was out of his chair exhorting his team to play defense. Hands to his sides and up on his toes, Rizzo was playing defense, too.
As it turned out, he had nothing to worry about.
Green made certain the Spartans would play again.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)