Michigan St. 55, Marist 47

Late in the first half, after a pair of shot-clock meltdowns,

exasperated Marist coach Brian Giorgis yelled to his players:

”Nobody wants to shoot!”

”It was like, `Guys, you’re playing scared,”’ Giorgis

said.

Playing scared should not be in Marist’s wheelhouse. The school

plays a tough nonconference schedule and has shown a knack for

pulling first-round NCAA upsets as a double-digit seed.

There would be no such bracket upheaval Saturday. Despite a

rally early in the second half, the 12th-seeded Red Foxes fell

55-47 to No. 5 Michigan State.

”That was not the team we had been offensively all year,”

Giorgis said. ”I didn’t know what team was there playing in the

first half.”

In fact, only one player from either team found a rhythm in the

first 20 minutes. Michigan State’s Annalise Pickrel came off the

bench and hit three 3-pointers and a baseline drive for a layup to

account for 11 points in a 13-0 run that helped build a 25-16

halftime lead.

The Spartans would need that cushion in the second half, when

Marist put together a 17-3 run fueled by 3-pointers to briefly

retake the lead, but Michigan State (25-8) gradually pulled away to

advance to the second round for the eighth time in nine NCAA

appearances.

Kiana Johnson scored 16 points, and Jasmine Thomas had 10 for

the Spartans. Starters Klarissa Bell and Becca Mills had just two

points apiece, making for a stat sheet that normally would have

pleased the Marist coach.

”And all of a sudden,” Giorgis said, ”Pickrel comes up.”

Pickrel finished with 14, including four 3-pointers.

Casey Dulin scored 13 points to lead the Red Foxes (26-7), who

made it to the second round as a No. 13 seed 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,”

Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said. ”We also know their

history.”

A game full of oddities included a first half in which neither

team attempted a free throw. Neither team made a field goal in the

final 3 minutes of either half. Marist finished with only one

offensive rebound. After the Red Foxes’ flurry of 3-pointers early

in the second half, Merchant called timeout to 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.”

Michigan State will play fourth-seeded Maryland, a 72-52 winner

over Quinnipiac, on Monday on the fourth-seeded Terrapins’ home

court.

Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP