'You're playing scared': No. 12 seed Marist falls in 1st round, 55-47 to No. 5 Michigan State
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Late in the first half, after a pair of shot-clock meltdowns, exasperated Marist coach Brian Giorgis yelled to his players: "Nobody wants to shoot!"
"It was like, 'Guys, you're playing scared,'" Giorgis said.
Playing scared should not be in Marist's wheelhouse. The school plays a tough nonconference schedule and has shown a knack for pulling first-round NCAA upsets as a double-digit seed.
There would be no such bracket upheaval Saturday. Despite a rally early in the second half, the 12th-seeded Red Foxes fell 55-47 to No. 5 Michigan State.
"That was not the team we had been offensively all year," Giorgis said. "I didn't know what team was there playing in the first half."
In fact, only one player from either team found a rhythm in the first 20 minutes. Michigan State's Annalise Pickrel came off the bench and hit three 3-pointers and a baseline drive for a layup to account for 11 points in a 13-0 run that helped build a 25-16 halftime lead.
The Spartans would need that cushion in the second half, when Marist put together a 17-3 run fueled by 3-pointers to briefly retake the lead, but Michigan State (25-8) gradually pulled away to advance to the second round for the eighth time in nine NCAA appearances.
Kiana Johnson scored 16 points, and Jasmine Thomas had 10 for the Spartans. Starters Klarissa Bell and Becca Mills had just two points apiece, making for a stat sheet that normally would have pleased the Marist coach.
"And all of a sudden," Giorgis said, "Pickrel comes up."
Pickrel finished with 14, including four 3-pointers.
Casey Dulin scored 13 points to lead the Red Foxes (26-7), who made it to the second round as a No. 13 seed a year ago and as a No. 10 in 2011. They also advanced to the Sweet 16 as a No. 14 in 2007 and entered this year's NCAAs with a 21-game winning streak, sweeping both the regular season and tournament in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
"Probably everybody in the field, when you see your name come up there and you see Marist come up there, you know you maybe drew the unlucky number because they are a very, very good team," Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said. "We also know their history."
A game full of oddities included a first half in which neither team attempted a free throw. Neither team made a field goal in the final 3 minutes of either half. Marist finished with only one offensive rebound. After the Red Foxes' flurry of 3-pointers early in the second half, Merchant called timeout to deliver a very simple message.
"We just hand our hands down," Merchant said. "They had three 3s when our hands were down, so it was an easy fix."
Michigan State will play fourth-seeded Maryland, a 72-52 winner over Quinnipiac, on Monday on the fourth-seeded Terrapins' home court.
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