Kiana Johnson scored 16 points as the fifth-seed Michigan State Spartans defeated the 12th-seed Marist Red Foxes, 55-47, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Comcast Center.
Johnson also dished out six assists and hit four shots from beyond the arc for Michigan State (25-8) which moves on to face fourth-seed Maryland in the second round. Annalise Pickrel added 14 points,. Jasmine Thomas tallied 10 and Klarissa Bell ripped down 10 rebounds as well for the Spartans.
Casey Dulin registered 13 points and Sydney Coffey tacked on 12 for Marist (26-7) which had pulled upsets as a double-digit seed in the previous two NCAA Tournaments.
Michigan State shot just 38.5 percent from the floor in the first half but did hit five shots from beyond the arc. The Spartans were stifling on defense in the period as well, holding the Red Foxes to just seven field goals, as they went into the break leading 25-16.
The Red Foxes went on a 14-2 run early in the second half to knot the game at 33-33 withy 13:23 remaining. However an 11-4 run from the Spartans minutes later gave them enough separation to hang on as they hit all six shots from the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the win.
Michigan State's 15-3 edge in points off turnovers proved crucial in the victory. The Spartans also had a 30-25 advantage on the boards.