Spartans face upset-minded Crimson in third round
Twelfth-seeded Harvard will try to slow down Michigan State forward Adreian Payne and reach the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the first time in its history when the teams meet in a third-round game of the East regional Saturday in Spokane, Wash. Payne was unstoppable in scoring a Spartans tournament-record 41 points in No. 4 seed Michigan State's 93-78 win over 13th-seeded Delaware in the second round Thursday. Payne also set a tournament record with a 17-for-17 showing from the line as the Spartans won their tournament opener for the sixth time in the last seven years.
Coaches Tommy Amaker of Harvard and Tom Izzo of Michigan State will be renewing acquaintances - Amaker was 3-7 against Izzo as coach of Michigan from 2001-07. With a 61-57 triumph over fifth-seeded Cincinnati on Thursday, Amaker has guided the Crimson to tournament wins in consecutive years - both as double-digit seeds - and has his eyes set on his longest run in the NCAAs since a Sweet 16 push while coaching Seton Hall in 2000. Harvard has won nine straight games overall.
TV: 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT HARVARD (27-4): While the Spartans leaned heavily on Payne, the Crimson relied upon a balanced attack and their usual stout defense to get past Cincinnati. Wesley Saunders led the way with 12 points and four of his team's nine assists and Harvard improved to 15-0 when holding its opponent to less than 60 points. Laurent Rivard set the tone with a 3-for-3 effort from beyond the arc in the first half and the Crimson led for the final 33-plus minutes, fending off numerous charges from the co-champions in the regular season of the American Athletic Conference.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (27-8): Payne had four free throws and one basket to his credit with just over eight minutes left in the first half before he began to author one of the great tournament showings in history. He produced a personal 12-0 run with three 3-pointers and a three-point play, finished the first half with 23 points and scored eight straight Spartans points down the stretch to help fend off a minor threat from the Blue Hens. "When you're scoring like that and your game's coming so easy to you and you make a lot of shots, it feels like you're in a rhythm," Payne told reporters. "It feels like you can't be stopped."
1. The only common opponent this season was Columbia. The Spartans needed a late run to win 62-53 while the Crimson swept two meetings with the Lions, one in overtime and another a 33-point rout earlier this month.
2. Spartans G Travis Trice scored a season-high 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting against Delaware and is 10-for-11 from the floor in his last two tournament games.
3. The teams have split four previous meetings, the last coming in 1949.