(SPOKANE, Wash.) — Even with a 16 point lead in the second half, Tom Izzo knew that his Michigan State squad could not let up against Harvard. He was right. The 12th-seeded Crimson made a furios rally, taking a late lead, but came up short as the Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16 with an 80-73 win on Saturday.
Michigan State (28-8), the four seed in the East region, gradually built up a lead in the first half before taking a 45-33 advantage into the break. Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson added back-to-back dunks to start the second half for a 16 point advantage. From there, the comeback was on.
Over the next eight minutes Harvard (27-5) outscored the Spartans 29-11, capped by a Laurent Rivard three, taking a 62-60 lead with 7:11 remaining in regulation. However, Travis Trice answered with a three of his own as Michigan State scored the next eight points and hit their free throws to survive the upset scare.
Dawson had a career-high 26 points in the win, scoring 20 in the first half. Gary Harris had 18 points for Michigan State while Payne added 12 for the Spartans. Harvard, competing in their third straight NCAA Tournament, were led by Wesley Saunders’ 22 points while Steve Moundou-Missi recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Spartans advanced to their 12th Sweet 16 in the last 17 years. Michigan State will take on the winner of Virginia and Memphis on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio