Michigan State’s loss against the Kansas Jayhawks 90-70 is one of three losses by 20 or more points for Tom Izzo in the NCAA tournament, but this loss can perhaps be described as a noble defeat for Izzo and his young Spartan squad.
After surviving their first match-up in the round of 64, climbing back to a 20 point victory over a more experienced Miami team, the Spartans were expected to keep the game close into the final minutes of the contest. It appeared so going into halftime trailing the Jayhawks by five.
The first half featured a plethora of garbage buckets and a slight 13-2 run towards the end of the half lead by Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson. Michigan State could have folded much earlier in the game after Big10 Freshman of the year Miles Bridges nursed a hip injury after taking an elbow from a Jayhawk player on a contested shot. Bridges would check out for a few minutes and check back in to finish the half with 13, but the main reason the Spartans stayed within 10 was due to the play of Nick Ward and Josh Langford who finished with a combined 23 points.
After the break, Ward would attempt to do some of the heavier lifting to try to ease the workload for the injured Bridges. but After scoring the first five points for the Spartans in the 2nd half, Ward would find himself in foul trouble early and Izzo would have to sit his best inside scoring threat.
Kansas took advantage of the big man’s departure. Josh Jackson showed off his arsenal of offensive skills in that half with a couple of challenging jump shots and a dramatic dunk towards the end of the game to all but settle the game for the Bill Self coached Jayhawks. Jackson 14 of his 23 points in the second half but the Jayhawks super Freshmen also benefited from big plays from his older teammates in Frank Mason III and Devontae Graham who helped the Jayhawks advance to their 30th sweet sixteen appearances by scoring a combined 38 points.
The Jayhawks will face off against the Purdue in the sweet sixteen on Thursday night. Awaiting them will be another Big10 awardee in Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan who averages a double-double on the year.