Michigan State’s Izzo snaps whiteboard during NCAA tournament win over USC | NCAA tournament 2023

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Upset with the officials and his team’s defense, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo angrily snapped a white board in half during a timeout.

“It felt damn good,” Izzo cracked.

The Spartans broke Southern California soon after.

Joey Hauser scored 17 points and No 7 seed Michigan State clamped down defensively on No 10 seed USC in the second half on Thursday for a 72-62 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament’s East Region.

Izzo’s Spartans (20-12) will face No 2 seed Marquette on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet 16. Michigan State have won both previous meetings in the tournament.

Before his team throttled Vermont 78-61 in the second game at Nationwide Arena, Golden Eagles coach Shaka Smart sat on press row for part of the USC-Michigan State second half to get a closer look at his next opponent.

Smart watched as Michigan State got more physical after halftime to muzzle the streaky Trojans (22-11), who were knocked out in the tournament’s first round for the second straight year.

Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins added 12 points apiece for Michigan State, which held USC to 34% shooting in the second half. It felt like every possession was a challenge for the Trojans, who only stayed within range with some late three-pointers and atrocious late free-throw shooting by Michigan State.

The Spartans missed six straight from the line during one stretch while trying to close it out and finished 15 of 25 overall.

“It was a bad day,” Walker said when Izzo asked him to comment on the misfires.

“Well said,” added the coach.

Joshua Morgan scored 14 and Kobe Johnson 13 to lead USC.

An animated Tom Izzo reacts along the sideline during Michigan State’s win over USC on Friday in the NCAA tournament. Photograph: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Michigan State, appearing in their 25th straight tournament under Izzo, will move on in what has been a unique and challenging season for the Spartans. The team became the face of a grief-stricken school after a gunman killed three students and injured five others in a campus shooting on 13 February.

Following his 54th win in the NCAA tournament, Izzo said he’s savoring every moment of this March.

“I’m not taking too much for granted anymore,” Izzo said. “It’s too crazy of a world.”

No 3 Xavier 72, No 14 Kennesaw State 67

Terrell Burden got a shoulder past his defender and pushed into the paint, locking in on the rim for a chance to move Kennesaw State within reach of their first-ever NCAA tournament win.

Instead, Xavier’s Jack Nunge descended on him to make the play that capped the Musketeers’ late defensive surge – and saved their season.

Nunge blocked Burden’s driving attempt at a go-ahead layup in the final seconds, and Xavier dug out of a 13-point hole against surprising Kennesaw State to escape with a 72-67 victory in Friday’s first round.

The seven-footer’s block was part of the reason the Owls shot 2-for-15 over the final nine and a half minutes, reversing the momentum in a game that had often left third-seeded Xavier (26-9) looking befuddled.

“We didn’t really change much, and that’s oftentimes the story,” said coach Sean Miller, back for his second stint with the Musketeers. “We just did what we do better.”

Souley Boum hit four clinching free throws in the final 2.6 seconds for the Musketeers, who ran off 15 unanswered points as part of a game-ending 24-6 run. That was enough to turn away the 14th-seeded Owls (26-9) in the program’s first-ever March Madness game.

Xavier move on to face either Iowa State or Pittsburgh on Sunday in the Midwest Region.

Xavier led 68-67 when Burden – who’d been successful all day with dribble penetration – made his move into the paint. But Nunge rotated over and swatted the ball into the backboard.

“In the timeout, we were supposed to switch everything,” Nunge said, adding: “He’s a really good driver at getting to the rim and I just came over and blocked it.”

Burden said everything with the play ran as designed until Nunge’s arrival.

“It was a great play by him to meet me at the rim,” Burden said.

The ball eventually made its way to Boum, who hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds left for a 70-67 lead. The Owls had a chance to set up a 3-pointer for the tie, but that desperate play ended when Spencer Rodgers’ right foot landed on the sideline as he caught the inbound pass.

Jerome Hunter scored a career-best 24 points to lead the Musketeers, while Boum had 17. Nunge had 10 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Burden and Chris Youngblood each scored 14 points to lead Kennesaw State, which appeared on the verge of a signature March moment, playing with an aggressive edge while backed by vocal pockets of fans. At one point, the 5-10 Burden got Nunge on a switch, pulled him outside and blew past him for a layup and a 61-48 lead.

But that’s when Xavier started its desperate push back – and Nunge was ready when Burden challenged him again.

“We did some things early on both ends of the court that helped build that 13-point lead,” Kennesaw State coach Amir Abdur-Rahim said. “But if anybody in that building thought that was going to be how the game stayed, you hadn’t watched much basketball in March – and you probably haven’t watched much basketball in general.”

Michigan State’s Izzo snaps whiteboard during NCAA tournament win over USC | NCAA tournament 2023

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