Syracuse, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The Michigan State Spartans and Oklahoma Sooners get together in the East Regional Semifinals on Friday night at the Carrier Dome, with the winner moving into the Elite Eight to take on either NC State or Louisville on Sunday.
Michigan State's road to the Sweet 16 began with a 70-63 win over Georgia, and that was followed by a 60-54 upset of No. 2 seed Virginia last Sunday. The Spartans, who are the seventh seed in the East and in the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year, improved their NCAA Tournament record to 61-27, and they are hoping to reach their ninth Final Four. MSU, which is appearing in its 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament, 29th overall, and has a pair of national titles to its credit (1979 and 2000), is 25-11 on the season and has won six of its last seven games entering this matchup.
Oklahoma earned the No. 3 seed in the East Region, and took out Albany (69-60) and Dayton (72-66) to get to this point in the tournament. The Sooners currently sit at 24-10 on the season, and they are making their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, also their 29th overall, and they own a record of 37-28 in the event all-time. Oklahoma has reached the Final Four four times, and been to the championship game twice (1947, 1988).
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Oklahoma, 5-3, and the Spartans won the only previous meeting between the two in the NCAA Tournament, taking a 54-46 decision in a Sweet 16 matchup back in 1999.
Michigan State turned the tables on Virginia last weekend, as the Spartans played stingy defense in allowing a mere 29.8 percent of the Cavaliers' field goal attempts to find the bottom of the net, including just 2-of-17 3-point tries. Conversely, MSU shot 42.5 percent from the floor, draining 6-of-12 long-range launches in the process. Travis Trice went 4-of-8 from distance in netting a game-high 23 points, while Branden Dawson came close to logging a double-double as he tallied 15 points and nine rebounds. Overall, the Spartans were outworked on the glass, 39-32, and both teams took exceptional care of the basketball in combining for only 11 turnovers.
Trice (15.0 ppg, 5.1 apg), Denzel Valentine (14.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.4 apg) and Dawson (12.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg) all average double figures, and the team as a whole has done well for itself out on the perimeter (.388) in putting up 71.5 ppg. With Dawson leading the way, the Spartans typically control the boards, doing so with a rebounding differential of +6.0.
Oklahoma's recent clash with Dayton was every bit the nip-and-tuck battle it was thought to be at the outset, as both teams shot about the same, with the exception of the Sooners finishing with a 19-11 edge in points at the foul line. OU hit 9-of-18 3-point tries, UD went 11-of-21 beyond the arc, and the Sooners claimed a 35-23 rebounding advantage. Jordan Woodward scored 16 points, Buddy Hield tacked on 15 despite shooting just 4-of-13 from the floor, and Frank Booker came off the bench to chip in 12 points for Oklahoma in the hard-fought win. Ryan Spangler paced the Sooners' rebounding effort with a dozen boards.
Hield, who averages a team-best 17.3 ppg, was named the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, and he is joined in double figures by Isaiah Cousins (11.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and TaShawn Thomas (11.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg). Spangler (9.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Woodward (9.3 ppg, 3.9 apg) have also made significant contributions this season for an Oklahoma squad that is producing 71.9 ppg while permitting only 62.8 ppg. The Sooners are holding the opposition to just 38.6 percent success on their total shots, which includes a 31.6 percent showing from 3- point range.