Auburn Hills, MI – Derrick Nix dominated with 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, as Michigan State rolled to a 65-54 victory over Valparaiso in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Keith Appling added 15 points and Gary Harris chipped in 10 for Michigan State (26-8), which built a 17-point halftime lead and opened a 27-point advantage in the second half before cruising to the final buzzer in front of a partisan crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Spartans are seeded third in a treacherous Midwest Region that also features top overall seed Louisville and ACC powerhouse Duke. Michigan State, a perennial contender in its own right, will next play the winner between Memphis and Saint Mary's in the third round Saturday.
Ben Boggs scored 15 points and Erik Buggs added 14 for Valparaiso (26-8), which won the Horizon League title and was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004 when the Crusaders played in the Mid-Continent Conference.
Valpo entered the contest sixth nationally in field goal shooting at 48.9 percent, but struggled throughout and made only 35.2 percent against the tough Michigan State defense. Leading scorer Ryan Broekhoff connected on just 2- of-11 shots and finished with eight points, nearly eight below his season average.
The Crusaders led early and tied the game at 8-8 on a free throw by Kevin Van Wijk, but Michigan State broke it open with a 24-4 run.
Threes by Harris and Travis Trice fueled the early part of the burst and a dunk by Branden Dawson gave the Spartans an 18-10 lead with just under 9 1/2 minutes to play in the first half. Two free throws by Broekhoff briefly interrupted the surge, as the Spartans followed with the next 14 points.
Harris ignited it with another triple and a layup by Nix made it 32-12 before Matt Kenney ended Valpo's eight-minute field goal drought with a three from the left corner.
The Crusaders made only 6-of-26 shots in the opening 20 minutes and trailed 35-18.
Michigan State opened the second half with a 14-4 run and the outcome was never in doubt. Only a 12-4 run by Valpo in the closing minutes made the score somewhat respectable.
Kenney finished with 10 points in defeat ... Michigan State held a 49-23 edge on the boards ... The Spartans are appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 16th straight year. Only Kansas (24) and Duke (18) have longer current streaks ... The Spartans are playing NCAA Tournament games in Auburn Hills for the second time. They previously beat Syracuse in the Midwest Region semifinals and Iowa State in the regional final en route to their last NCAA championship in 2000 ... Michigan State also opened the 2000 tourney with a 65-38 first- round win over Valparaiso. The teams last met in November 2009, a 90-60 Michigan State rout in East Lansing ... Valparaiso was making its eighth NCAA Tournament appearance. The Crusaders have two NCAA tourney wins, both coming in 1998 when current coach Bryce Drew was a player and helped his team victories over Ole Miss and Florida State before bowing out against Rhode Island.