COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Kiana Johnson scored 16 points, Annalise Pickrel added 14 and fifth-seeded Michigan State halted Marist's string of first-round NCAA upsets Saturday with a 55-47 win.
Jasmine Thomas added 10 points for the Spartans (25-8). Michigan State 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 floor a year ago.
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Casey Dulin scored 13 points for the Red Foxes (26-7). Marist has made a name for itself by pulling first-round upsets as double-digit seeds, advancing to the second round as a No. 13 seed a year ago and as a No. 10 in 2011.
The Spartans gradually pulled away after Marist rallied to take a lead soon after halftime in a game full of oddities. There were no free throws in the first half, and neither team made a field goal in the final 3 minutes of either half.
The game began with the standard elements of a low-scoring matchup: Marist couldn't handle the ball, and Michigan State couldn't shoot. The Red Foxes gave the ball away with careless plays three times in the first 4½ minutes, while the Spartans started 1 for 7 from the field.
The half essentially boiled down to a brief, one-woman performance by Pickrel, who came off the bench to hit three 3-pointers and a baseline-drive layup to account for 11 points in a 13-0 run that built an 11-point lead. Marist, in particular, kept using up the shot clock in the vain hope of getting a decent look, and the Spartans went to the break ahead 25-16.
But Marist couldn't miss in the early minutes of the second half, with five 3-pointers from four players in a 17-3 run that put the Red Foxes back in the lead. Johnson and Pickrel kept pace for Michigan State with a pair of 3-pointers, and soon both teams were working the ball inside with success as well. Thomas had a put-back and a layup for the Spartans, and Danella Kristina stumbled her way to the hoop for the Red Foxes as the teams kept trading baskets.
Then, just as suddenly, the open looks disappeared and the game got tense in the final minutes. Johnson hit two free throws to give the Spartans a 53-47 lead with 2:32 to play, and Thomas chased down an offensive rebound after a desperation jumper with the shot clock expiring to run off some more of the clock. Marist missed six of its final seven shots, and Johnson's four free throws accounted for the only points in the game's final 3 minutes.