Michigan State’s season came to an end Sunday afternoon as the Spartans fell to Syracuse 55-53 at Little Caesars Arena in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State (30-5) was the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region. No. 11 Syracuse (23-13) won its third game in five days to advance to the Sweet 16 against No. 2 Duke.
Michigan State will miss the Sweet 16 for the third straight season, the first time that has happened under coach Tom Izzo. He took over the program for the 1995-96 season.
Freshman Marek Dolezaj gave Syracuse a 49-48 lead with a pair of free throws with 4 minutes, 23 seconds left to play. Tyus Battle hit a jumper with 47 seconds remaining to put the Orange up 52-49. Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid hit a pair of free throws with 7 seconds to play and Cassius Winston added 2 more with 3 seconds left but the Spartans didn’t make a field goal in the final 5:41 of the game.
McQuaid gave Michigan State a 25-22 halftime lead with a last-second 3-point fling that went off the glass and in just before the halftime buzzer. McQuaid’s initial shot was blocked by Syracuse’s Matthew Moyer but McQuaid caught it in the air and got the shot off in time.
Miles Bridges had just 11 points on 4-of-18 shooting after scoring 29 points in the first-round win against Bucknell on Friday. He scored 3 points in the first half as he missed 6 of the 7 shots he took in the first 20 minutes but hit a pair of treys early in the second half to give the Spartans a little breathing room. It didn’t last.
WHY MICHIGAN STATE LOST: The Spartans struggled against the Syracuse 2-3 zone the entire game. There weren’t a lot of opportunities inside and the perimeter shots weren’t falling. The Spartans had 29 offensive rebounds but turned those into just 21 points. They shot just 25.8 percent (17 of 66) from the field and (21.6) percent from behind the arc (8 of 37), and missed their final 14 shots of the game.
WHAT IT MEANS: The NCAA Tournament is all about survive and advance. Syracuse did just that.
WHO STARRED: Syracuse’s free-throw shooters. The Orange made 24 of 31 free-throw attempts in the game, while Michigan State went to the line just 16 times, making 11.
WHO STUMBLED: The notion of basketball having any offense. Syracuse wanted to minimize possessions, slow the pace of the game with its 2-3 zone defense, and that’s exactly what it accomplished. Michigan State complicated matters by shooting just 30.8 percent in the first half, making 8 of 26 field-goal attempts. The Spartans did make 5 3-point shots in the first half but needed 19 attempts. The last one, McQuaid’s off-balance fling that banked in just before the halftime buzzer after his initial attempt was blocked, gave the Spartans a 25-22 lead.
WHO IS NEXT: Syracuse advances to face No. 2 Duke in the Midwest Regional semifinals in Omaha, Neb., on Friday. The season is over for Michigan State.