Michigan State will make a 22nd consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament as coach Tom Izzo looks to advance his legacy after guiding the school to a fourth Big Ten Tournament title in eight years. However, the coach said White hurt a hamstring in the ACC championship game and will not play against the Bison.
Izzo should have had no complaints on Saturday.
Ward scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds to go along with Tillman's seven points and four boards in MSU's 79-55 victory over the Golden Gophers on February 9 in East Lansing.
The Spartans' average margin of victory in their last five games has been 9.4, down from 13.2 for the season.
"I don't think maybe we've faced a team with that kind of interior presence this year", Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon said. "When we were rotating me, (Tillman), and Nick (Ward), we were all a little fresher, and able to perform a little better without any type of fatigue". Belmont appeared to get a crucial stop when Nick Muszynski swatted away a shot by Bruno Fernando, setting off a wild scramble that left four players - three from Belmont, one from Maryland - sprawled on the floor.
The Gophers play two traditional big men, a bit of a rarity in today's era of pace-and-space college basketball. Guard Amir Coffey and forward Jordan Murphy each finished with 18 points.
Naz Reid had 14 points and 10 rebounds. He was a right hander who shot it over his right shoulder which was weird.
Minnesota: This was the breakthrough Pitino had been searching for from the Gophers. "We showed great toughness and grit down the stretch", Pitino said. The Cards and the Gophers were the first game to tip off in 2019 and they haven't disappointed. The public betting now has 56 percent going on Michigan State as the favorite. He said he thinks he's nearly back to 100 percent. "But as far as a teammate, I felt like I did everything I could".
Pitino was very complimentary of MSU's bigs. "Shout out to them for making that drive for us".
Bradley gave the Big Ten champions all they could handle, though. They impressed in the Big Ten Tournament, beating Penn State (77-72) and Purdue (75-73) before bowing out to MI in the semi-finals via a 76-49 collapse.
It was the first time Big Ten teams met in the tournament since 2000 and at the earliest point ever.
"They play really hard", Oturu said. "For 40 minutes, we stuck to the scouting report".
The team that won the rebounding battle has also won the game in three of the last four matchups between the conference rivals.
8 Va. Commonwealth (25-7) vs. 9 Central Florida (23-8), Channel 2*, 6:30 p.m.
And guess what? The victor would face another Big Ten opponent next week in the East Region semifinals in Washington, D.C., if sixth-seeded Maryland beats third-seeded LSU on Saturday.