Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne lead Michigan State past Virginia 61-59

The Dagger
Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne lead Michigan State past Virginia 61-59
Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne lead Michigan State past Virginia 61-59

For much of the second half it looked like Virginia’s stifling defense just might have Michigan State’s number, but Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne had other plans.

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.

[Photos: Top Sweet 16 action from Michigan State vs. Virginia]

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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