Dawson and Payne combined for 22 of the Spartans' 31 second-half points to knock off No. 1 seed Virginia 61-59 at Madison Square Garden. Dawson led all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting while also pulling down 10 boards. Payne, a senior who was not content with his career ending just yet, scored 16 points and hit a huge three at the 1:31 mark to give the Spartans the lead for good.
Guards Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris scored 17 points apiece to lead the Cavaliers, but a six-minute second-half scoring drought allowed the Spartans to claw their way back and prevented the Cavaliers from returning to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1995.
It was a game of runs early on as Michigan State went on an early 11-2 run to take a 21-11 lead at the 9:47 mark of the first half. The Cavaliers then stormed back with a 14-2 run of their own to retake a 25-23 lead 6:17 later.
Michigan State then battled back with another run, ending the half with an 8-2 spurt to go into the locker room with a 31-27 lead.
Virginia came out of the gates for the second half with an increased tenacity on defense. All of a sudden, the Spartans could not buy a basket while UVA slowly retook a lead. The Spartans were limited to just one point on their first 11 possessions of the second half before Dawson scored MSU's first field goal of the half with a putback slam that gave his team some life.
During that stretch before Dawson's dunk, the Spartans defense matched UVA on nearly every possession, only allowing the Cavaliers to open up a four-point lead. After Dawson's dunk, Michigan State employed a patient approach offensively, going on a 14-2 run to open up a 49-42 lead with 6:13 remaining.
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After a Virginia timeout, the Cavaliers halted the run with two layups by Harris. Brogdon followed with two free throws, then sophomore Justin Anderson knocked down his only shot of the game -- a clutch three-pointer from the left corner to tie things up at 51 with 1:53 remaining.
Anderson's big shot set the stage for Payne to save the day with his big-time three to take the lead for good. Brogdon missed a layup on the other end before the 6-foot-10 Payne set up Dawson with an alley-oop to seal the win.
Virginia became the second No. 1 seed, along with Wichita State, to be knocked out of the tournament. The Spartans will advance to the Elite Eight for the eighth time in 17 years under Tom Izzo.
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