NCAA tournament, East Regional: Freshmen lead Michigan State past LSU and into Elite Eight; Duke edges Virginia Tech

Xavier Tillman, Nick Ward, Aaron Henry
Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman (23) turns to looks at teammates Nick Ward (44) and Aaron Henry (11) after scoring against LSU during the first half of an East Regional semifinal in the NCAA tournament in Washington on Friday.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

For all of Michigan State’s veteran experience, its freshmen led the way into the Elite Eight.

Aaron Henry scored a career-best 20 and fellow frosh Gabe Brown had 15 as the second-seeded Spartans beat third-seeded LSU 80-63 on Friday night to move on to the NCAA Tournament’s East Region final.

Coach Tom Izzo’s upperclassman-heavy team is one victory away from its first Final Four appearance since 2015.

Michigan State took it to LSU on the glass, outrebounding the Tigers 34-20. At halftime, Michigan State had as many offensive rebounds as LSU had total boards, at times making it look like 5-on-4 when the ball came off the rim.


It didn’t bounce off the rim much for the Spartans early as they took advantage of an LSU defense that left them uncontested 3-point shots. Michigan State had five 3s in the first 10 minutes alone, and LSU never adjusted defensively.

Tremont Waters scored 10 points during a 13-0 LSU run spanning the first half into the second to cut the deficit to four. Then Michigan State blew the game wide open with 3-pointers. The Spartans hit four of their first five 3-point attempts out of halftime.

Henry did his best Draymond Green impression as the do-it-all 6-foot-6 forward was all over the offensive end. He had eight rebounds and six assists and was 9 of 14 from the floor.

Brown came in averaging 2 points a game and scored more than he had in his past 11 games combined. Brown had just five points in the Spartans’ past 12 games, but became a central figure against LSU.


Standout point guard Cassius Winston went toe-to-toe with Waters and finished with 17 points as one of four Michigan State players in double figures.

Michigan State faces the winner of the matchup between overall top seed Duke and No. 4 seed Virginia Tech in the regional final Sunday. This is Michigan State’s fifth Elite Eight appearance in the past 11 years and 10th under Izzo.

No. 1 Duke 75, No. 4 Virginia Tech 73: Zion Williamson soared for a two-handed, rim-rattling, crowd-thrilling alley-oop slam that gave Duke its biggest lead during a tight tussle against Virginia Tech in the East Region semifinals.

He is known for his dunks, to be sure, but he can do more. So much more. And now Williamson and two of the Blue Devils’ other fabulous freshmen have them one victory away from the Final Four. Just barely, though, thanks to yet another miss by an opponent.

Williamson scored 23 points, RJ Barrett had 18 and a career-high 11 assists, and Tre Jones added 22 points and eight assists, helping No. 1 overall seed Duke avoid an NCAA Tournament upset and edge No. 4-seeded Virginia Tech 75-73 on Friday night.

The Hokies had their chances in the closing seconds, the final one coming on an inbounds play with 1.1 seconds left. The ball went to Ahmed Hill as he jumped to the basket, but his attempt to tie it failed to fall. Hill dropped to the court on his back as Williams — fittingly — grabbed the basketball and smiled broadly. It was similar to the way two last-gasp shots went off the rim for Duke’s second-round opponent, UCF.

Before that final miss, both Hill and Ty Outlaw airballed 3-point attempts that would have put Virginia Tech ahead.

But Duke got through, even though it trailed much of the evening, including 38-34 at halftime.


In the Elite Eight on Sunday, Duke (32-5) will take on No. 2 seed Michigan State.

Williamson showed off his full repertoire in the early going, all of the sorts of skills that made people joke — well, actually, they might be dead serious — that NBA teams would be (hash)NotTryinForZion, tanking away this season in order to get a better chance at taking him with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

At 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds but with the agility, speed and flair of a guard, Williamson scored seven of Duke’s first nine points, including one rise-above-it-all put-back jam and, later, a 3-pointer. He flew from seemingly nowhere to swat a shot off the glass at the defensive end. He tapped in a no-look layup.

And then in the second half, when Duke used a 9-0 run to erase its last deficit and make it 60-52 with 10 minutes left, Williamson was a part of it, naturally. There was a dart of a pass out of a double team in the paint to find Jones in a corner for a 3. And then the coup de grace — a highlight-worthy dunk off a lob from Jones.

Perhaps buoyed by the knowledge that it beat Duke already this season — albeit while Williamson was sidelined for five games after hurting his knee in a bizarre, headline-grabbing shoe mishap during a game — Virginia Tech came out looking like a team that believed.

Believed it could withstand a big game from Williamson.

Believed it could hang with the highly regarded Blue Devils.

Believed it could win.


This time, the Blue Devils were without another terrific freshman, forward Cam Reddish, who was sidelined with a bad knee and was a late scratch.

It took Duke 13{ minutes just to grab its initial lead, on a three-point play by Jones that made it 26-24.

But Justin Robinson — the senior point guard who missed 12 games before the NCAAs with a hurt foot — and Hill soon replied by sinking 3s, pushing the Hokies back in front.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. led the Hokies with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Hill scored 15.

Go beyond the scoreboard

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