- Associated Press - Sunday, March 23, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Hampton guard Kenia Cole shook her head as she sat in the post-game press conference, the truth setting in.

“You can’t have slow starts against a team like Michigan State and expect to win,” Cole said.

Twelfth-seeded Hampton shot 18 percent from the field in the first half and fell behind by 32 points at the break and lost 91-61 to the No. 5 Spartans on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“We weren’t ready to go, and I take responsibility for that,” Hampton coach David Six said.

Hampton fell to 0-8 all-time in NCAA tournament play. Hampton too often settled for one-on-one drives to the hole which often resulted in blocked shots or misses. The Spartans had six blocks alone in the first half.

“We let our emotions get the best of us,” Six said. “We did a lot of 1-on-1 play and did not really move the ball from side to side.”

Part of that might have been Michigan State’s preparation.

“We had been preparing for them for a while and knew their offensive sets backward and forward,” said Michigan State’s Annalise Pickrel.

Nicole Hamilton led the Pirates with 19 points. Alyssa Bennett had 16.

Freshman Aerial Powers had 26 points and 18 rebounds, Pickrel added 21 points on 7 of 7 shooting to lead the Spartans (23-9).

Michigan State came into the tournament looking to avenge a 28-point loss to Nebraska in the Big Ten Conference semifinals and played inspired basketball almost from the opening tip.

“It felt like an eternity since we played,” Spartans coach Suzy Merchant said. “But we did a great job of keeping our composure and moving the ball.”

The Spartans outscored the Pirates 46-30 in the paint.

Hampton (28-5), the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions, came in riding an 18-game winning streak and looking for its first NCAA tournament win.

Powers came in as the only freshman in the nation to total at least 400 points, 200 rebounds and 75 assists this season, and turned in a complete game in her first tournament appearance. She was 10 of 18 from the field and chipped in with two blocked shots and two steals.

Powers also held Hampton’s Malia Tate-DeFreitas to 1 of 15 shooting from the field.

Fellow freshmen Branndais Agee had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Tori Jankoska had 11 points for the Spartans, who shot 58 percent from the field in the first half.

“We need some excitement in our game and it’s a positive,” Merchant said of the influx of freshmen in women’s basketball this season. “It’s a positive and might bring some fans back for four more years - and even attract some new ones.”

Her senior wasn’t bad either.

Pickrel’s 21 points tied a career high. She converted all three 3-pointers, and made all four free throws.

It didn’t take long for Michigan State to take control.

Trailing 6-5, Powers ignited a 15-1 run by scoring on an offensive rebound and then on a fast break layup to give her team the lead for good.

Pickrel knocked down two 3-pointers and Tori Jankoska (11 points) added another trey during the stretch. When Michigan State wasn’t hitting shots from outside, they were dominating on the boards.

The Spartans continued to pull away building a 32-point lead halftime behind Powers, who already had a double-double at the break with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Michigan State led by at least 30 points throughout the second half but Merchant waited until the final minutes before emptying the bench.

Becca Mills added 12 points for Michigan State, which has advanced to the second round in nine of its last 10 seasons.

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