DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Cassius Winston scored 26 points and second-seeded Michigan State held off Bradley 76-65 on Thursday in the opening round of the East Region.
Xavier Tillman had 16 points with 11 boards for the Spartans (29-6), who’ll face Big Ten rival, 10th-seeded Minnesota, on Saturday in search of their first trip to the Sweet Sixteen in four years. Michigan State throttled the Gophers 79-55 in East Lansing back on Feb. 9.
Bradley gave the Big Ten champions all they could handle, though.
It was a one-possession game until Matt McQuaid drilled a crucial 3 to put Michigan State ahead 61-55 with 3:31 left. Aaron Henry followed with a layup to cap a 9-0 run, but Darrell Brown hit a 3 for Bradley to make it 65-60.
The Spartans iced the game at the line, where they hit their first 20 and finished 25 of 26.
Bradley (20-15) surged to a 35-34 halftime lead by shooting 6 of 9 from 3-point range. The Spartans made some of their own luck early in the second half, reeling off 10 straight points in less than two minutes to seize control. Bradley answered with eight straight of its own though to retake the lead, 51-50.
Elijah Childs scored 19 points and Brown had 17 for the Braves, who went just 3 of 12 from beyond the arc in the second half.
THE BIG PICTURE
Michigan State: Spartans fans no doubt had flashbacks to 2016, when Michigan State lost to 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee State. Michigan State epitomized the term “survive and advance” on a day when the shots just weren’t falling. The Spartans were just 5 of 19 on 3s.
Bradley: The Braves posted back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 10 years, won the Missouri Valley tournament for the first time in 31 years and terrified the Spartans for about 38 minutes. Regardless of Thursday’s result, this season will be remembered fondly in Peoria.