Michigan St.-Maryland PreviewMichigan State head coach Suzy Merchant directs her players during the first half of a first-round game against Marist in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament in College Park, Md., Saturday, March 23, 2013. Michigan State won 55-47. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Late in a sleepy and sloppy first half that didn't do much for the sport of women's basketball, Annalise Pickrel came off the bench and started hitting shots.
Three 3-pointers and a baseline drive for a layup. Eleven points in a 13-0 run for fifth-seeded Michigan State, providing a cushion the Spartans would need in the second half against a mid-major known for its first-round upsets.
Pickrel finished with 14 points Saturday, making up for off-days from starters Becca Mills and Klarissa Bell, as the Spartans beat 12th-seeded Marist 55-47.
''I felt pretty confident at that point,'' Pickrel said. ''I felt I could pick up some slack that was happening.''
There was plenty of slack to be found in a game full of oddities. Neither team attempted a free throw in the first half. Neither team made a field goal in the final 3 minutes of either half. Marist finished with only one offensive rebound. After Pickrel's surge gave Michigan State a 25-16 halftime lead, the Spartans allowed the Red Foxes to get back in front with a flurry of 3-pointers, prompting coach Suzy Merchant to call timeout and 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.''
The Spartans (25-8) gradually pulled away after that and advanced to the second round for the eighth time in nine NCAA appearances, a streak interrupted by a loss to Louisville on the same College Park court a year ago. Michigan State will play fourth-seeded Maryland, a 72-52 winner over Quinnipiac, on Monday on the fourth-seeded Terrapins' home court.
Kiana Johnson scored 16 points, and Jasmine Thomas had 10 for the Spartans. Bell and Mills had just two apiece, a stat sheet that normally would have please Marist coach Brian Giorgis.
''And all of a sudden,'' Giorgis said, ''Pickrel comes up.''
Casey Dulin scored 13 points to lead the Red Foxes (26-7), who have made a name for themselves by winning first-round games as double-digit seeds, advancing to the second round as a No. 13 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,'' Merchant said. ''We also know their history.''
Except for the 3-point spree early in the second half, though, Marist couldn't generate much offense. Late in the first half, after a couple of shot-clock meltdowns, Giorgis yelled out to his team: ''Nobody wants to shoot!''
''That was the thing that was so frustrating at the time,'' Giorgis said. ''It was like 'Guys, you're playing scared.' ... I didn't know what team was there playing in the first half.''
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