Commentary

Instant Analysis: USC-Michigan State

Originally Published: March 22, 2009
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg provides instant analysis from No. 2 seed Michigan State's 74-69 win over No. 10 seed USC in the NCAA tournament second round.

[+] EnlargeTravis Walton
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTravis Walton, center, scored a career-high 18 points as Michigan State advanced to the Sweet 16 with a win over USC.

GAME ANALYSIS: Michigan State prevailed in a back-and-forth contest highlighted by tremendous perimeter play on both sides. The Spartans' depth proved to be a crucial factor in the closing minutes, as USC couldn't match up inside. After a perfect 10-of-10 shooting performance in a first-round win against Boston College, USC junior forward Taj Gibson was a non-factor and fouled out with 5:28 left.

Gibson's absence opened up the lane for Michigan State guards Travis Walton and Kalin Lucas to penetrate. Several foul calls benefited Michigan State in the closing minutes, including one on Nikola Vucevic with one second on the shot clock and 1:19 left. Walton and Lucas never lost composure and got help from freshman Delvon Roe and sophomore Durrell Summers.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Michigan State senior guard Travis Walton kept shooting, and somewhat surprisingly, the ball continued to fall through the net. Walton hit two pivotal jumpers down the stretch, and the Spartans proved to be a just bit better when it mattered most. USC guards Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis missed critical jumpers, and Hackett couldn't get a call on a drive with 1:20 left.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Walton calls himself a defensive specialist, but his offense carried the team into the Sweet 16. Walton scored a career-high 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting to boost the Spartans. Vowing not to become the first four-year player never to reach the Final Four under Tom Izzo, Walton has kept his dream alive.

STAT OF THE GAME: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo improved to 13-2 in games on the second day of an NCAA tournament weekend. Izzo's only two losses came against No. 1 seeds (North Carolina and Texas) playing in their home states.

IRON MEN: USC must have the best conditioning program in the country. Trojans guards Hackett and Lewis didn't leave the floor for the second consecutive tournament game and performed well despite all the minutes played. Hackett finished with 13 points and five assists, and Lewis had a game-high 19 points and five rebounds.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans advance to the Midwest regional semifinals in Indianapolis. They'll face No. 3 seed Kansas, a team they embarrassed Jan. 10 in East Lansing. Michigan State won 75-62 but led by much more for most of the game. The Spartans reach the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season.

Adam Rittenberg covers college football and college basketball for ESPN.com.

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