Michigan St. 55, Marist 47

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.”

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