SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Branden Dawson matched his career high in the first half and Michigan State was clicking.
But coach Tom Izzo looked up, saw only a 12-point lead on the scoreboard and knew the game was far from over.
"I kept saying, 'They're going to come back. You better realize that,'" Izzo said.
Michigan guard Nik Stauskas (11) drives against Texas forward Jonathan Holmes (10) during the second half of a third-round game Saturday in Milwaukee. Michigan won 79-65.
Michigan State’s Branden Dawson (22) dunks in the first half during the third-round game of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament against Harvard in Spokane, Wash., Saturday.
Harvard did, in fact, come back, but the Spartans rebounded for an 80-73 victory Saturday night that helped them advance to the Sweet 16.
Dawson finished with 26 points - 20 before halftime - although Travis Trice hit the most important shot. His 3-pointer gave the Spartans a 63-62 lead after Harvard had overcome a 16-point deficit to take a two-point advantage with 7:12 left.
"They stayed poised and we knew they were going to make a run," Michigan State guard Gary Harris said. "They're here for a reason. They made that run, but we stuck together as a team and we were able to fight through it."
The fourth-seeded Spartans (28-8) will play top-seeded Virginia next Friday in the East Regional semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Harvard (28-5) heads home, but not without making a statement of its own in the NCAA tournament.
"We showed everybody that we can come all year and play with the best," sophomore guard Siyani Chambers said.
During a comeback that lasted 7 minutes, 31 seconds, 12th-seeded Harvard pounded on Michigan State, plain and simple.
The rally started with a pair of 3-pointers by Brandyn Curry and continued relentlessly. The Crimson grabbed almost every loose ball, kept hands in Michigan State's flustered faces. Steve Moundou-Missi, the 6-foot-7 forward who was supposed to contain Michigan State's 6-10 power player, Adreian Payne, simply outplayed him.
When Moundou-Missi tipped in a missed shot with 10:22 left, Harvard trailed only 55-53.
Michigan State called a timeout but Izzo's play produced an offensive foul. Moundou-Missi missed a layup, but Wesley Saunders, who led the Crimson with 22 points, scrambled for a loose ball and dunked to tie it.
About 90 seconds later, Laurent Rivard hit his 3 to put Harvard ahead 62-60.
"You look down the other end, and I've got a good friend that's down there," said Izzo, who goes back more than 20 years with Harvard coach Tommy Amaker.
Yet somehow, once the Spartans lost the lead, they started playing better. Harvard's lead lasted just 18 seconds.
After Trice put the Spartans ahead, Rivard missed a 25-footer - part of a 2-for-5, seven-point night in which he was shut down by Harris. Payne came back with two free throws and Harris made a 3 of his own, part of an 18-point, five-assist night that complemented his great defense.
"It was a scare and we need to give credit to Harvard," Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine said.
Payne followed his career-high, 41-point night in the opener against Delaware with a modest 12 points, but the final lesson in this one was all the ways Michigan State can beat you.
Dawson had matched his previous career best of 20 points by halftime. When he took a pass from Trice for a layup with 1:54 left, he gave the Spartans a 73-67 lead.
Harvard pulled within four and Moundou-Missi blocked Keith Appling's shot on the other end. But the Spartans won a scramble for the ball and Amaker stomped his foot and shouted.
The game was pretty much over by then and both teams had proven a point: Harvard can play with anyone, and Michigan State can handle a legitimate challenge.
MICHIGAN 79, TEXAS 65
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Nik Stauskas had 17 points and eight assists to lead Michigan to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year. Jordan Morgan added 15 points and 10 rebounds as No. 2 seed Michigan (27-8) advanced to the regional semifinals in Indianapolis. The Wolverines will face Tennessee in Raleigh, N.C.
WISCONSIN 85, OREGON 77
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Ben Brust hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:07 left and second-seeded Wisconsin overcame seventh-seeded Oregon to reach the Sweet 16.Brust's clutch 3 from the corner gave the Badgers (28-7) the lead for good in a heavyweight fight of an NCAA tournament game. They will play No. 6 seed Baylor in the regional semifinals.
WICHITA STATE 76
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Andrew Harrison scored 20 points, twin brother Aaron had 19 and Kentucky ended Wichita State's pursuit of perfection Sunday when Fred VanVleet's potential game-winning 3-pointer missed in a 78-76 victory in the NCAA tournament.
Julius Randle had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and James Young also had 13 points for the No. 8 seed Wildcats (26-10), who made a series of clutch free throws in the final minutes to hold off the top-seeded Shockers in arguably the most captivating game of a thrilling first weekend.
Kentucky will play in-state rival Louisville in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Indianapolis.
Cleanthony Early scored 31 points and Ron Baker had 20 for the Shockers (35-1), who hadn't lost since last year's Final Four.
TENNESSEE 83, MERCER 63
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Jarnell Stokes had 17 points and a career-high-tying 18 rebounds, and Tennessee denied Mercer a second straight upset in the NCAA tournament.
IOWA ST. 85
NORTH CAROLINA 83
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - DeAndre Kane drove for the game-winning layup with 1.6 seconds left and No. 3 seed Iowa State advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.
VIRGINIA 78, MEMPHIS 60
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Joe Harris scored 16 points and top-seeded Virginia shot 56 percent, earning its first trip to the NCAA tournament round of 16 in nearly two decades.
STANFORD 60, KANSAS 57
Dwight Powell had 15 points and seven rebounds and No. 10 seed Stanford wrapped up its second straight upset at the free throw line.
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN 60
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Jordan Adams scored 19 points and UCLA reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.
BAYLOR 85, CREIGHTON 55
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip each scored 17 points and Baylor shut down Creighton's Doug McDermott with suffocating defense, ending the career of the one of the most prolific scorers in college history.
ARIZONA 84, GONZAGA 61
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 18 points each, and Arizona looked every bit the No. 1 seed in the West.
After four days of upsets and buzzer beaters, Arizona (32-4) closed out the NCAA tournament's first weekend with a display of domination.