Spartans Blast Valparaiso 65-54

AUBURN HILLS (97.1 The Ticket/AP) – Derrick Nix came through with a game high 23 points and 15 rebounds as the Michigan State Spartans overwhelm the Valparaiso Crusaders 65-54 during opening round play Thursday at The Palace.

The third seeded Spartans took control of the game early and never looked back – ahead of the 14th-seeded Crusaders by double digits for most of the game including a 26-8 run in the first half to the thunderous noise of the mostly home crowd for Michigan State.

Keith Appling racked up 15 points followed by Gary Harris’ 10 points.

Michigan State (26-8) will play Saturday, when Spartans coach Tom Izzo will be shooting for a spot in the round of 16 for the fifth time in six years.

The Crusaders (26-8) were no match for Michigan State in their first NCAA tournament in nine years, just as they weren’t as a first-round loser in 2000 to the eventual champion Spartans.

Valpo had enough size to match up, but didn’t have enough strength.

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