Memphis routs Michigan State 92-74

HOUSTON — Vulnerable? Not exactly.

The mighty Memphis Tigers humiliated Michigan State and embarrassed all those naysayers who suggested they were the most suspect of the top seeds in this year’s NCAA tournament.

The final score Friday night: Memphis 92, Michigan State 74, but really, it was worse than that.

Next up in the South Regional, a game Sunday against Texas with a trip to the Final Four on the line, though the message on this overwhelming night was clear: Don’t mess with Memphis.

Freshman Derrick Rose will play at least one more college game after a 27-point, five-assist night that showed he’s ready for the NBA. He exited early in the second half with a cut on his forehead that required stitches, but returned to the floor with 8½ minutes left and started dominating again.

Meanwhile, Michigan State senior Drew Neitzel’s career is over, and this was no way to end it. He was held to six points, his first of two buckets coming on a 3-pointer that clanged around the rim and fell, mercifully, with 1:47 left.

The game had long been over by then. The score at halftime was 50-20.

Goran Suton led the fifth-seeded Spartans with 23 points and nine rebounds. Chris Allen had 20.

The Tigers (36-1) were already rolling, ahead by 15, when they went on a 15-0 run to close the first half. It was borderline ridiculous. It included a jam by Antonio Anderson, a double-pump stuff by Rose, a breakaway windmill dunk by Joey Dorsey and an appearance from the big fella, Pierre Niles, a 310-pound forward who had played all of 93 minutes this season.

By the time the halftime buzzer sounded — yes, that annoying Reliant Stadium buzzer that sounds like the horn on your sister’s ‘92 Corolla — the Spartans (27-9) were walking off in shock and the crowd full of Texas fans was murmuring about the task ahead.

How to stop the Tigers?

This is the third straight year John Calipari’s team has made it this far. The two previous trips ended in the regional finals.

This team could be different. Rose is a special player, a Chicago kid sold on Memphis by the player he replaced in the starting lineup, sophomore point guard Willie Kemp.

Chris Douglas-Roberts is a dominating force. He finished with 23 points and probably played this one with a chip on his shoulder; he’s a product of Detroit who was roundly ignored by coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State in the recruiting process.

But everyone on this Memphis roster is playing to prove something. Calipari is making sure of it. Their existence in Conference USA, their average 3-point shooting, their bad free-throw shooting — all of it was fodder for the so-called experts who singled out Memphis as the top seed to likely go first.

(Need it be said that free-throw shooting doesn’t matter much when you’re ahead by 30?)

Calipari is playing the us-against-the-world card so well that you almost couldn’t help but believe him the day before the game when he said, with conviction, “We play how we play, and Michigan State plays how they play, and most people think Michigan State is going to win.”

Oh, really?

But make no mistake, the Spartans weren’t another Texas-Arlington or some other hyphenated piece of first-round fodder. In fact, there were many who believed they could make it back to the Final Four after the impressive performance they put in beating Pitt last week in the second round.

Izzo’s team looked to be rounding into shape at the perfect time. Neitzel was shooting well. Freshman Kalin Lucas was starting to play like a sophomore. Suton was toughening up. In fact, all of Michigan State was tough.

Signs of the disintegration of MSU’s hopes were evident, early, however, when Suton settled for a 3-point shot — his 12th of the year — that actually went in, but still screamed of a team that couldn’t get the ball in the right hands in the right places.

Airballs flew. Some shots clanged awkwardly off the backboard. Neitzel let his frustration show, slamming the ball to the floor, even though he’d been fouled while a Memphis defender was trying to deny him a pass.

Neitzel finished 2-for-8 from the floor with seven assists. It was one of many ugly numbers for the Spartans. Almost as ugly: They allowed the Tigers to shoot 53 percent from the floor, a sign that they had no grasp on how to defend Calipari’s confusing, newfangled “Dribble Drive Motion” offense — or any of the players who execute it so well.

Michigan State alumnus Magic Johnson was in the crowd. But true to what Izzo said earlier in the week, it was Memphis conjuring all the memories of “Showtime” on this night.

Talk to us

More in Sports

Arlington junior quarterback Leyton Martin throws a short pass during the second quarter of the season opener against Kamiak on Friday, Sep. 1, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
3 games to watch in Week 4 of the prep football season

An in-depth look at the best games the area has to offer, plus a full schedule of the local action in Week 4.

Lakewood High School.
Lakewood contests Week 3 game against B-E, wins WIAA appeal

The Cougars dispute an incorrectly spotted ball by officials on a penalty-riddled play in the 3rd quarter. The game will resume from that point in Week 10.

Monroe junior quarterback Blake Springer looks for an open receiver on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022 in Monroe, Washington. (Katie Webber / The Herald)
Week 4 prep football leaderboard

A look at the area’s top passers, rushers and receivers through three weeks of the season.

Prep roundup for Wednesday, Sept. 20

Prep roundup for Wednesday, Sept. 20: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for Sept. 11-17

The Athlete of the Week nominees for Sept. 11-17. Voting closes at… Continue reading

Stanwood's Michael Mascotti relays the next play to his teammates during football practice on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022 in Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Game picks for Week 3 of the prep football season

Find out which teams the experts and readers pick to win in Week 4.

Marysville Pilchuck’s Kenai Sinaphet bruises the defense on a run against Marysville Getchell during the Berry Bowl on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Quil Ceda Stadium in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Associated Press high school football poll for Week 4

Marysville Pilcuck joins the top 10 in Class 3A; Lake Stevens remains No. 1 in 4A.

AquaSox pitcher Reid VanScoter delivers a pitch during a game against the Vancouver Canadians on Thursday, June 8, 2023, at Funko Field in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Community roundup: AquaSox’s VanScoter, Scott honored by NWL

Plus, GP grad Matt King is named to USA Swimming’s national team, Daniel Arias is waived by the Cardinals and more.

Minnesota Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson is shown during batting practice before a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Saturday, May 18, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023 bio: Rick Anderson

The 1975 Mariner graduate spent 16 seasons as an MLB pitching coach with the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

Most Read