CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Mateen Cleaves collected 15 points and eight assists as top-seeded Michigan State jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, routing No. 16 Valparaiso, 65-38, in a Midwest Region first-round game.
The Spartans will face Utah in the second round on Saturday.
Michigan State improved to 24-13 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 12-2 in first-round games.
The contest was a blowout from the opening tap, as Michigan State grabbed a 20-3 lead with 7:19 left in the first half. The Crusaders could not have started the game much worse, hitting only one of their first 17 shots, including a nine-minute scoreless stretch.
Lubos Barton finally ended the drought with a 3-pointer, but Valparaiso bared no resemblance to the 1998 squad that reached the "Sweet 16." Michigan State (27-7) took a 29-15 lead at halftime as the Crusaders shot only 23 percent (6-of-26) in the first half and committed seven turnovers.
"Our defense was the key to our offense," Cleaves said. "We started out timid but our defense was the spark. We ended up getting fast breaks and a lot more open looks when the defense got more intense." "Mateen is the type of player every coach wishes they had," Crusaders coach Homer Drew said. "He makes everyone else on the court that much better by creating shots off the dribble. He knows when to shoot and when to pass." Barton scored 13 points for Valparaiso (19-13), which has suffered first-round losses in each of the last two seasons. The Crusaders dropped to 2-5 in NCAA Tournament play.
Valparaiso tied Ohio, which scored 38 points in a loss to Kansas in 1985, for the second-lowest point total in NCAA Tournament history for first or second round games.
"It seemed that anything that could go wrong did," Drew said. "I do want to compliment Michigan State because they executed on both ends of the floor. This was just a great opportunity for our program so I wish we could have given a better showing." Cleaves, the top playmaker in the Big Ten Conference, missed the first 13 games of the season after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot in the preseason. He skipped the NBA draft in June for one more chance to win the NCAA Tournamentafter the Spartans lost to Duke in last year's Final Four.
In the second half, the Spartans picked up where they left off. After Valparaiso opened the scoring Michigan State went on a 10-2 run to take a 39-19 lead with 14 minutes remaining.
The Spartans managed only six points over the next six minutes but their defense continued to stifle Valparaiso, which was unable to take advantage. The Crusaders scored only eight points during the stretch and trailed 45-27 with just over eight minutes to play.
"They did a great job denying our penetration and making us take off-balance shots," Barton said. "When you do get an open look, they get a hand in your face and hit the boards hard." Michigan State shook off its doldrums with an 18-6 burst to take 63-33 lead with 3:20 left.
Morris Peterson scored 12 points and Jason Richardson grabbed 10 rebounds for the Spartans, who shot 44 percent (22-of-50) and held a 39-31 rebounding advantage.
Raitis Grafs had seven points and eight rebounds for Valparaiso, which shot only 25 percent (13-of-52), had just six assists and was outscored, 10-0, on the break.