Freshman Gary Harris had a career-high 23 points and Adreian Payne collected 14 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocked shots as Michigan State reached the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last six seasons with a 70-48 win over Memphis at The Palace on Saturday.
Derrick Nix, who had a heated exchange with teammate Keith Appling during the second half, added 13 points, eight rebounds and four steals for the Spartans.
Michigan State (27-8), the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region, advanced to play the winner of Sunday's Duke-Creighton game on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Geron Johnson's 16 points led sixth-seeded Memphis (31-5), which had lost only once since Dec. 15. The Tigers shot 29.7 percent and were out-rebounded, 53-31, allowing the Spartans to overcome 18 turnovers.
Nix, Michigan State's only senior, threw a towel at Appling during the early second-half timeout and Appling threw one back. Nix had to be restrained by teammates as he yelled and pointed his finger at Appling.
Harris picked up his fourth foul with 13:42 remaining, but all the adversity seemed to fuel the Spartans. They opened the half with a 13-3 run to take a 45-32 lead.
Payne was the driving force, scoring two putbacks and throwing down a dunk off Appling's lob to finish the run. He was also a force defensively, deflecting a lob pass and taking a charge on a single possession.
When Payne blocked D.J. Stephens shot and then drained a 17-foot jumper with 9:05 remaining, Michigan State's lead was 52-37.
Appling had to leave the court after his right shoulder popped out.
Nix committed a flagrant foul against Tarik Black with 5:13 left, but Black missed both free throws as Memphis was unable to cut its deficit below double digits.
The Tigers finished the first half on a 16-6 run to cut Michigan State's one-time 13-point lead to 32-29. Jackson and Adonis Thomas each made two layups during that spurt, while Johnson scored six of his 13 first-half points on two 3-pointers.
Harris poured in 16 points by halftime, including three 3-pointers during an 11-3 Michigan State burst that gave the Spartans their biggest first-half lead, 26-13.
NOTES: The Spartans have an 18-3 all-time record in their second game of the tournament, losing only to No. 1 seeds. ... Michigan State reached the Sweet 16 in 10 of the last 15 seasons. Duke, with 12, is the only school with more Sweet 16 appearances over the last 15 seasons. ... Memphis had a 2-0 all-time record against Michigan State, including a 92-74 Sweet 16 victory in 2008. That was the Tigers' most recent victory over a Big Ten team. ... The Tigers reached the Sweet 16 six times since 1992. ... Memphis is 8-4 all-time as a No. 6 seed in the tournament.