GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Joey Hauser scored a career-high 27 points and Michigan State edged Davidson 74-73 on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament’s first round.
A.J. Hoggard added 14 points for the Spartans (23-12), the West Region’s No. 7 seed. They had to wrestle away control of a tight game in the second half and then hang on against a desperate comeback push in the final seconds.
Michigan State used a 13-3 run to go ahead for good while allowing just one field goal over a critical 6-minute second-half stretch, pushing the Spartans to their largest lead at 67-59 with a minute left.
Before the Spartans’ push, the teams had battled evenly with neither leading by more than six points.
The 10th-seeded Wildcats (27-7) took the fight to the final minute even while getting tripped up by several quick — and sometimes borderline — whistles down the stretch.
They pulled to within 72-70 on a 3-pointer from Foster Loyer, a transfer facing his former team, with 4.6 seconds left. Then, after Tyson Walker hit two free throws to put the margin back to four, Hyunjung Lee hit a desperation 3 for Davidson with a half-second left. Hoggard threw a long inbounds pass to Gabe Brown for a deep-ball catch that killed the last of the clock to finally clinch the win for Hall of Famer Tom Izzo’s Spartans.
Hauser carried a heavy offensive load for Michigan State, hitting his first eight shots before finishing 9 of 12 from the field with four 3-pointers.
Luka Brajkovic scored 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting to lead Davidson. Sam Mennenga added 15 points.
Davidson had a big year, winning the Atlantic 10 regular-season title and cracking the Top 25 briefly for the first time in seven years. The Wildcats lost to Richmond in the A-10 tournament final but did enough to earn the second at-large tournament bid in program history. They just couldn’t extend their push into the second round under longtime coach Bob McKillop.
Michigan State opened the year unranked, then spent 12 weeks in the Top 25 and peaked at No. 10 before falling out again by February. Michigan State lost seven of 10 to close the regular season, then lost to Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Now, as they play in their 24th straight NCAA Tournament, they are advancing after last year’s one-and-done showing with a First Four loss to UCLA.
The Spartans will face second-seeded Duke, which beat Cal State Fullerton earlier Friday, in Sunday’s second round.