SPOKANE, Wash. — Senior forward Adreian Payne poured in a career-high 41 points Thursday afternoon to lead fourth-seeded Michigan State to a 93-78 win over 13th-seeded Delaware in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Payne sank 10 of 15 shots from the field, including four of five from 3-point range, and went 17-for-17 at the free-throw line. He received a standing ovation from the Spokane Arena crowd of 10,862 when coach Tom Izzo removed him from the game in the final minute.
“When you’re scoring like that and the game’s coming so easy to you. … it feels like you can’t be stopped,” Payne said.
Spartans swingman Branden Dawson added, “Adreian just showed the world he’s not ready to go home.”
A second-team All-Big Ten Conference player, Payne came into the game averaging 15.8 points. He set his previous career high of 33 points Dec. 21 in a 92-78 win at Texas.
The Spartans (27-8) face 12th-seeded Harvard (27-4) on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the East Regional semifinals in New York. The Crimson defeated fifth-seeded Cincinnati 61-57 earlier Thursday.
Michigan State is playing in the NCAA Tournament for the 17th consecutive year and the 28th time overall. Delaware, making its first NCAA appearance since 1999, fell to 0-5 all-time in the tourney.
“It’s a shame we had to play arguably the best team in the country that happens to be a 4 seed,” Delaware coach Monte Ross said.
Senior guard Devon Saddler, Delaware’s all-time leading scorer, paced the Blue Hens (25-10) with 21 points. Backcourt partners Davon Usher (20) and Jarvis Threatt (14) also scored in double figures for Delaware.
Michigan State guard Travis Trice came off bench to hit seven of eight shots and score 19 points. Guard Gary Harris and Dawson both scored 10 points for the Spartans, who outrebounded the Blue Hens 42-24. Payne and Dawson led Michigan State with eight rebounds apiece.
The Spartans shot 52.6 percent from the field, and the same percentage on 3-pointers (10-for-19). Delaware shot 37 percent from the floor. The Blue Hens nailed 40 percent of their 3-pointers (8-for-20).
Payne scored 23 points in the first half to help the Spartans build a 44-33 lead at the break. Payne sank six of eight shots from the field, including all four of his 3-point attempts, and went 7-for-7 at the free-throw line.
“(Payne is) a special player, and he showed that today,” Ross said. “You don’t bank on him going 4-for-4 from (3-point range) in the first half. He was probably the best big man I’ve faced in 21 years of college basketball. I haven’t faced a guy like that.”
Payne’s 3-pointer gave the Spartans a 36-18 lead with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half, but the Blue Hens scored the next 11 points. Saddler and Harris both scored 12 points each in the first half.
Michigan State wound up committing 27 fouls to 19 for Delaware, and the Spartans gave the ball away 14 times, compared to eight turnovers by the Blue Hens.
“You just didn’t feel as good as you should after a win like this,” Spartans coach coach Tom Izzo said. “I wasn’t a fan of how we played tonight.”
Still, it was good enough for Michigan State to cruise past Delaware.
“They were up to the challenge tonight,” Ross said.
NOTES: Jud Heathcote, who guided Magic Johnson and Michigan State to the NCAA championship in 1979, attended the game. Heathcote, 86, moved to Spokane (where he once coached high school basketball) when he retired as Spartans coach in 1995. Tom Izzo, Heathcote’s longtime assistant in East Lansing, remains close with Heathcote. … The Blue Hens fell to 0-19 against current Big Ten Conference schools, including 0-11 against teams that were Big Ten members at the time of the game. … Delaware is now 0-30 all time against Top 25 teams.
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