March 21, 2009

 


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Finally healthy and plenty hungry, the Michigan State Spartans look poised to show the country what they can really do.

Raymar Morgan scored 16 points and Goran Suton had 11 points and 17 rebounds as Michigan State bullied 15th-seeded Robert Morris in a 77-62 victory in the first round of the Midwest Regional on Friday night.

Draymond Green added 16 points for the second-seeded Spartans (27-6), who were spotty during the Big Ten season thanks to Morgan's walking pneumonia and Suton's gimpy knees. They both looked fine on Friday night against the overmatched Colonials and the Spartans regained the form that led to convincing victories over Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas earlier in the year.

Michigan State will play 10th-seeded USC on Saturday.

Jeremy Chappell was the only player in double figures with 11 for Robert Morris (24-11), a commuter school from suburban Pittsburgh making its first NCAA appearance since 1992.

The Colonials were game early, leading 28-26 with six minutes to go in the first half as they looked to become just the fifth No. 15 seed to win in the first round in tourney history.

The Spartans simply shrugged off a worrisome loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals and delivered a dominating effort to let everyone know they have their mojo back.

Michigan State had a 49-28 advantage on the boards and 44-20 in the paint against a smaller opponent that resides in little Moon Township, about 17 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.

Chappell, the Colonials' do-everything guard who leads the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals, didn't do much of anything on Friday night, shackled by Travis Walton. He shot 5-for-14 and had six rebounds and two steals.

With coach Mike Rice, the rising star and former assistant under Jamie Dixon, prodding his young team and pumping his fists, Robert Morris tried to go toe-to-toe with the Big Ten champs.

Green capped an 11-0 finish to the half with a putback of his own to give Michigan State a 41-30 lead at the break.

The 21-0 barrage continued in the first five minutes of the second half, with the lead ballooning to 51-30 before the Colonials scored their first points of the period.

The Spartans led by as many as 23 points before coach Tom Izzo called off the dogs. A late surge by the Colonials made the score a little more respectable, but the outcome was never in doubt in the final 25 minutes.

Now things will get tougher for Michigan State.

The Trojans have the kind of athleticism and offensive balance that will test coach Tom Izzo's hard-nosed defense more than perhaps any team they faced in a plodding Big Ten.