Michigan State reaches Sweet 16 with gritty upset of No. 2 seed Marquette in NCAA men's tournament

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tom Izzo and Michigan State are going back to the Sweet 16.

Thanks in part to perhaps the best team effort by the Spartans and a 12-minute display of brute force in an absolute fistfight with Marquette.

Tyson Walker taking over.

A.J. Hoggard shaking off foul trouble to set things up.

Joey Hauser with a critical 3-pointer on a day the outside shots weren’t falling.

Mady Sissoko blocking a pair of shots and Malik Hall gobbling up rebounds.

Walker scored 15 points of his 23 points in the final 8:52 as No. 7 seed Michigan State outlasted an intense performance from No. 2 seed Marquette for a 69-60 victory Sunday night at Nationwide Arena.

The victory sends the Spartans on to the East Region semifinals that begins Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York, which they will face No. 3 seed Kansas State, a 75-69 winner over No. 6 seed Kentucky on Sunday.

Michigan State guard Tyson Walker (2) reacts after a basket against Marquette during the first half of their NCAA men's tournament second-round game at Nationwide Arena.
Michigan State guard Tyson Walker (2) reacts after a basket against Marquette during the first half of their NCAA men's tournament second-round game at Nationwide Arena.

Michigan State hadn't advance past the first weekend since its 2019 Final Four run and made the Sweet 16 just that one time in the previous six NCAA tournaments.

Walker finished 8 of 17 from the field. Hauser had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Hoggard had 13 points and four assists despite five turnovers — two of his four fouls were charging calls. Sissoko added eight points and 10 rebounds while also finishing with four fouls, and he blocked a pair of shots in the final two minutes.

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Oliver-Maxence Propser had 16 points and Kam Jones 14 for Marquette (29-6), which hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since making the 2013 Elite Eight. Michigan State held Golden Eagles leading scorer Tyler Kolek to seven points and forced him into six of his team's 16 turnovers.

Slugfest start for Michigan State, Marquette

Things couldn’t have started worse for the Spartans, nor could they have flipped in a flash. Hoggard had his pocket picked by Stevie Mitchell after MIchigan State won the tip, and the Marquette guard took it in for a quick layup.

But that didn’t rattle the Spartans’ junior point guard, who immediately went back down court and hit Mady Sissoko for a dunk on the ensuing possession, then drove from the wing for a layup. Hoggard’s 3-pointer after a Walker jumper forced Golden Eagles coach Shaka Smart to call timeout just 3:14 into the game. Malik Hall followed with a putback after that for an 11-0 run.

Michigan State held the Golden Eagles without a field goal after the first steal and bucket for 6:21, then another scoreless stretch of nearly three minutes as Hauser had seven first-half points. The Spartans also turned five offensive rebounds into seven points without giving up a second-chance opportunity at the other end.

That’s when Marquette made its run, turning up its defensive pressure, rebounding and started getting the whistles going its way.

Hoggard was called for a charge with 5:23 left, his second of the half and one of seven fouls against Michigan State in the last seven minutes. That included six whistles in a 2:50 span as Marquette chipped away, with Prosper’s dunk through contact by Carson Cooper.

The Golden Eagles got within three on back-to-back 3-pointers from Ben Gold and Prosper, but Akins hit a floater as the Spartans pushed their lead back to 33-28 at the break.

Michigan State takes control in the second half

That end-of-half energy carried over for the Golden Eagles, as Prosper drilled a pair of 3-pointers and Oso Ighodaro a layup for an 8-0 run over the first 2:10 of the second half.

Michigan State meantime opened 2-for-10 with four turnovers in the first 9½ minutes. With a little over eight minutes to play, Walker-Hall-Akins-Hauser were a combined 0-for-14 from 3-point range, with Hoggard hitting the only other attempt early in the game.

But the defense and play inside the arc kept the Spartans in it. Hoggard attacked the lane for a three-point play to stop the Marquette run and tie the game at 36-all. Michigan State proceeded to go on a 12-6 spurt over the next 9:27, holding the Golden Eagles to 2 for 7 shooting. A critical moment in the run came with Prosper got whistled for a flagrant foul for dragging down Hauser on a baseline inbounds play with 8:20 to go. Hauser hit a pair of free throws, MSU kept the ball, and Walker got fouled and added another pair to make it 48-42.

Marquette wouldn’t go away, with Jones draining a 3-pointer, and Sissoko, Cooper and Hoggard all picking up their fourth fouls. Then Ighhodaro scored six straight points but missed a free throw that would have tied it. Instead, the Spartans rebounded the miss, and Hoggard got fouled and split a pair to push the lead back to 53-51.

MSU got a defensive stop, then Hauser finally ended MSU’s 3-point drought with one from the right corner. Jones answered to cut it to two, then Propser split a pair to make it a one-point game with 3:36 left.

That’s when Walker, Hoggard and the rest of their crew ensured Izzo would once again get back to the Sweet 16. New York awaits.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michigan State takes down Marquette to reach NCAA Tournament Sweet 16