Michigan State basketball cements NCAA tournament spot with 70-64 upset of Michigan

EAST LANSING — Michigan State basketball is heading to Indianapolis.

Yes, that much was known before Sunday, with the Big Ten tournament starting Wednesday. But the Spartans all but solidified a long-term stay for the week beyond.

Rocket Watts and Joey Hauser emerged from a season-long slump to combine for 32 points, and MSU rebounded from Thursday’s blowout loss to No. 2 Michigan with a 70-64 upset at Breslin Center.

The victory — the Spartans’ third over a top-5 opponent in the past 13 days — all but secures Tom Izzo’s 23rd consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. MSU (15-11, 9-11 Big Ten) will open Big Ten tournament play at 11:30 a.m. Thursday as the 9 seed against 8-seeded Maryland or Rutgers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The winner will face the top-seeded Wolverines at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

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Michigan State guard Rocket Watts drives as Michigan guard Mike Smith defends during the second half Sunday, March 7, 2021, in East Lansing.
Michigan State guard Rocket Watts drives as Michigan guard Mike Smith defends during the second half Sunday, March 7, 2021, in East Lansing.

Watts’ 21 points were his most since scoring 23 against Detroit on Dec. 4 and just his third double-digit scoring game in MSU’s last 21. The sophomore hit eight of his 16 shots with four rebounds and four assists.

Aaron Henry scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half as the Spartans held on late.

The regular-season champion Wolverines (19-3, 14-3) cut it to two points on Hunter Dickinson’s three-point play with 1:13 to play on Joshua Langford’s fourth foul after the MSU senior turned the ball over egregiously at the other end.

But Langford, in what could be his final game at MSU, responded with a 3-pointer with 48.9 seconds to play to answer the shot.

Chaundee Brown scored 13 points to lead Michigan, while Dickinson had 12 points and seven rebounds. Mike Smith added 11 points and seven assists, and Franz Wagner scored eight of his 10 in the second half, including two 3-pointers in the final 3:21 to help the Wolverines stay close.

Gabe Brown wrapped up the upset with two rebounds and four free throws in the final 36.7 seconds

The Spartans won five of their final seven games over a 15-day stretch to end the season, including top-five wins over Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball cements NCAA tourney spot with Michigan upset

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