All eyes were focused on the battle in the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma where life-long friends and star freshmen Miles Bridges and Michigan State and Josh Jackson and Kansas took center stage in a battle for a spot in the sweet 16.
The Jayhawks knew that MSU was going to be a tough out and through the first 10 minutes of the first half MSU was able to hold their ground and doing so without Miles Bridges. Early in the first half Bridges took an elbow to the ribs while coming off of a screen. He held his side in pain and left the game and went into the locker room before returning shortly after.
With seven minutes remaining in the first half MSU led Kansas 22-21. Even while being out of the game for almost four minutes, Bridges was still leading away for the Spartans by scoring eight of the team’s first 22. MSU benefitted from the contributions from bench players with 10 of the team’s first 22 coming from non-starting players.
At the under four media timeout, Kansas began to create some space from MSU thanks to a 13-2 run to push their lead out to 36-27.
Michigan State battled back to cut the deficit going into the half to five, trailing Kansas 40-35. Miles Bridges led the way for the Spartans scoring 13 first half points. Kansas was led by senior and Wooden award Candidate Frank Mason and junior Svi Mykhailuik who each scored nine for the Jayhawks. Mykhailuik presented a huge mismatch on the wing for MSU constantly getting open for three-point shots and driving on smaller Spartan defenders.
Midway through the second half the Spartan continued to chip away at Kansas’s lead coming within in one point by going on a 7-0 run at 54-53 capped off by a Alvin Ellis transition layup with 12 minutes remaining. After a quiet first half Nick Ward became more involved on the offensive and defensive sides for Michigan State getting into double figures with 11 points.
Every time Michigan State went on a mini run to cut the game to five points or under, Kansas, led by Frank Mason, would come right back and stretch their lead back to double digits. This was the case with five and a half minutes remaining in the game where Kansas was able to stretch their lead up to 12 at 77-65, the largest Jayhawk lead at the time.
At the final media timeout Kansas got their lead up to 13 at 80-67. It appeared that MSU had run out of time and that the season was shortly coming to an end.
As the Spartans tried to hang on, Kansas turned up their game to another level stretching their lead to 20 with under a minute to go at 90-70 which ended up being the final score.
MSU was led by Bridges, Ward, and Josh Langford scoring 22, 10, and 13 respectively. Ellis and Tum Tum Nairn, MSU’s other two starters, combined to score a mere two points.
In the Bridges vs. Jackson showdown, Jackson was the champion scoring 23 points on 9-16 shooting from the field. Jackson’s 23 points set a scoring record in the NCAA tournament for a Kansas freshman player. Frank Mason added in another 20 points of his own to help send the Jayhawks to the sweet 16 where they will play Purdue in a virtual home game in Kansas City.
With the 2016-2017 season ending for MSU, focus turns to recruiting where Tom Izzo is still heavily recruiting guard Brian Bowen and center Brandon McCoy who are still uncommitted and have MSU at the top of their lists. The next signing up period for student athletes is on April 12th.
MSU will also be waiting to find out if center Ben Carter is granted a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and if center Gavin Schilling will return for a fifth year after his season ending knee injury.