All season long, Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo has sung the praises of senior Draymond Green, comparing him to past Spartan greats like Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleeves. So far in this year’s NCAA tournament, Green is making his coach look more prescient by the game.
Two days after becoming just the third player to register a second triple-double in NCAA tournament play, Green was at it again Sunday as No. 1 seed Michigan State proved too much for No. 9 seed Saint Louis in a 65-61 victory in the round-of-32.
After a one-year hiatus, the Spartans are headed back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years, and it was Green who once again was the catalyst. He finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, but more importantly, he seemed to play a role in every Michigan State basket whenever the Billikens threatened to pull off an upset.
Known for its deliberate pace and in-your-face defense under Coach Rick Majerus, Saint Louis struggled to score all afternoon. The Billikens started the game with only one field goal in the first nine minutes, and finished the contest shooting just 35.3 percent.
Saint Louis’s two leading scorers during the regular season, forward Brian Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell, were a combined 6 of 19 from the field and scored 11 and 13 points, respectively. They had 38 points collectively in the Billikens’ round-of-64 win over No. 8 seed Memphis, the school’s first NCAA tournament victory since 1998.
Michigan State guard Keith Appling aided Green’s cause with 19 points, one of four Spartans to finish the game in double figures.
But after Michigan State led by as much as 11 in the second half, Saint Louis guard Jordair Jett closed the deficit to two with less than four minutes remaining with five-straight Billiken points. Green, though, ensured that would be as close as Saint Louis would get down the stretch.
First he fed Derrick Nix for an easy lay-in, and when the Billikens closed the gap to two again, Green followed it up with a clutch jumper from just inside the three-point line out of a timeout. As if he needed to further prove his worth, Green then blocked a lay-in attempt by the Billikens’ Cory Remukin, a sequence that allowed the Spartans to avoid an uncharacteristic late-game collapse.
Green assisted or scored on Michigan State’s last four field goals over the final 5:11 of the game.
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