Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Sports

Big Ten champ Spartans peaking at the right time

INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Izzo likes this postseason look.

No. 22 Michigan State is getting hot and healthy just in time for the start of the NCAA Tournament.

Adreian Payne had 18 points and nine rebounds, and Branden Dawson added 15 points to help the third-seeded Spartans overpower No. 8 Michigan 69-55 on Sunday for their fourth Big Ten tournament title.

This is not the same team that frustrated Izzo for so much of the season. These Spartans are starting to round into their usual March form.

"You don't get many teams that are talented, have inside and outside, show toughness, are together, have great chemistry," Izzo said. "I've said three times in my career that I thought we were good enough to get to a Final Four. I thought this team was next in line."

The Spartans (26-8) won three games in three days and four of their past five. They wound up with the No. 4 seed in the East Region and will open tourney play Thursday against 13th-seeded Delaware in Spokane, Wash.

The victory allowed Michigan State to pull off a rare double — winning the Big Ten football and basketball tourney titles — in venues less than a mile apart.

Gary Harris scored 13 of his 15 in the first half to help the Spartans get started. He went to the bench early in the second half after hurting his left shoulder but returned later.

Dawson scored 10 of his 15 in the second half and was named the tourney's most outstanding player.

"It feels great to just have our rhythm and chemistry back and to see us playing that way as a team," Dawson said.

Michigan (25-8) had a seven-game winning streak snapped and may have lost out on a top seed. Last year's national runner-up and this year's Big Ten regular-season champs drew the second seed in the Midwest.

ATLANTIC 10: Langston Galloway hit another huge 3-pointer to give St. Joseph's the lead for good in a 65-61 win over No. 23 Virginia Commonwealth in New York, giving the Hawks their first conference tournament championship since 1997.

Fourth-seeded St. Joseph's (24-9) beat Dayton in Friday's quarterfinals on Galloway's go-ahead 3 with 17.9 seconds left. Sunday, Galloway scored 19 and broke a tie at 54 with a 3 with more than two minutes left.

He and Halil Kanacevic played all 40 minutes against the second-seeded Rams' frenetic defense. Kanacevic won MVP honors after setting a tournament record with 43 rebounds in three games.

"We could go play another 40 if I got to feel this way again," Kanacevic said after cutting down the nets.

The Rams (26-8) have reached the tourney finals in both years in the league, losing each time.

SUN BELT: Before the season, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin promised his team he would get a tattoo if it made the NCAA Tournament. He's obligated now after Xavian Rimmer scored a career-high 27 and the Ragin' Cajuns rallied from a nine-point deficit in the last three minutes of regulation to force overtime and beat Georgia State 82-81 in New Orleans.

"We didn't forget it," UL-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton said. "He's going to get it. Real soon."

The third-seeded Ragin' Cajuns (23-11) are in their first NCAA Tournament since 2005.

LATE SATURDAY: Freshman reserve guard Ridge Shipley hit a go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the key with 13.7 seconds left, and seventh-seeded Cal Poly (13-19) pulled out a 61-59 victory over Cal State Northridge in Anaheim, Calif., to win the Big West championship and clinch its first NCAA berth. "Just being able to do that for my teammates means the most to me," Shipley said. "It doesn't mean as much to me personally, but as a team, it got us the victory."

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