Derrick Nix led the way with 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds as the third-seeded Spartans coasted past the Crusaders 65-54 in the round of 64 in NCAA Tournament play at Auburn Hills, Mich.
Keith Appling added 15 points and Gary Harris scored 10 for Michigan State (26-8), which will take on Memphis or Saint Mary’s in the round of 32 on Saturday.
Ben Boggs scored 15 points and Erik Buggs chipped in 14 as No. 14 seed Valparaiso dropped its opening game of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight time. The Horizon League champs shot 35.2 percent.
The Midwest Regional contest was tied at 8-8 nearly nine minutes into the first half when Spartans started to take control. Harris hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 24-4 run and Valparaiso went 7:55 between field goals before Matt Kenney and Ryan Broekhoff connected from beyond the arc to help cut it to 35-18 at the break.
Michigan State stretched it out to 49-22 on Harris’ layup with 14:19 left before the Crusaders finally found a rhythm. Valparaiso got 10 straight points from Boggs in the final 1:58 to provide the final margin.
Fourth-seeded Michigan takes on South Dakota State at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Palace.
Preview: Michigan vs. South Dakota State