ATLANTA (AP) Michigan State no longer has Mateen Cleaves and
Morris Peterson. Even so, the Spartans still have the look of a
Charlie Bell scored 21 points and led a stellar defensive effort
by the defending national champions, who moved within one victory
of getting back to the Final Four while ending another memorable
NCAA Tournament run by tiny Gonzaga.
Michigan State overpowered the Bulldogs 77-62 on Friday night in
the South Regional semifinals. The Spartans
advanced to meet No. 11 seed Temple, an 84-72 winner over Penn
The winner of Sunday's game moves on to play in Minneapolis.
"It's been a long year and we're just happy to be playing
another game," Bell said. "A lot of people didn't think we could
get this far, but we came into this season thinking we could win
another national championship."
Top-seeded Michigan State (27-4) was simply too big, too quick
and too deep for No. 12 Gonzaga (26-7), which led 44-41 with just
under 16 minutes remaining.
When the Spartans turned up the defensive pressure, Gonzaga had
trouble even finding the rim. The Bulldogs went 8:02 without a
field goal, throwing up at least three airballs during that span
and missing badly several other times.
Michigan State, which kept on winning despite losing Cleaves and
Peterson from its title team, got another balanced effort.
Andre Hutson had 19 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-3 Bell
also sneaked inside the bigger players to grab 10 rebounds. Jason
Richardson had 12 points and seven rebounds. Zach Randolph added 10
"Until somebody knocks them off, they're the champions,"
Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We made run after run at them. But
they kept coming at us, coming at us, coming at us."
Fri, March 23
Top-seeded Michigan State rolled on behind a strong interior game from Andre
Hutson, who dominated inside against Gonzaga with 19 points and 10
rebounds. Hutson received some help from Diaper Dandy Zach Randolph, who
scored 10 and had five off the glass. A dominating rebounding team all
year, the Spartans went to work cleaning the glass Friday night with 49
rebounds to Gonzaga's 25.
The Zags had a nice run again this year, getting to the Sweet 16 for the
third year in a row. But they were no match physically on the inside for the
Spartans. The best news of the night for Tom Izzo and his team was that
Charlie Bell found his touch; he had 21 points and 10 boards from the guard
slot. Bell did a great job containing Dan Dickau, who has been sensational
in tournament play. Friday wasn't Dickau's night, as he went 6-for-17 en
route to his 19 points. The Spartans move on to the Elite Eight, where they
will be one game away from going to the Final Four for the third consecutive
Hutson epitomized the blue-collar Spartans. He played 29 minutes
despite a painful leg cramp in the second half.
"Andre's a winner," teammate Aloysius Anagoyne said. "He had
a bad cramp and he played through it like a winner. He tells us
what he wants from us and we do it."
Gonzaga's roster doesn't run as deep, and Michigan State knew
how to take advantage of a tiring team. The Spartans put together a
15-3 run for a 57-46 lead with nine minutes to go.
The Bulldogs never got closer than six the rest of the way.
"When you see a team start shooting air balls, that's a sign
that they're tired," Michigan State's David Thomas said. "We knew
if we could pick it up there, we could get ahead."
Michigan State, which came in as the nation's dominant
rebounding team, flexed its muscle for a commanding 49-29 advantage
on the boards including 18 at the offensive end. The Spartans
also had eight blocks and continually harassed the Bulldogs into
"Eventually, we couldn't withstand their toughness at the
defensive end," Few said. "They punished us on the offensive
boards. I don't know if that was demoralizing, but they had a lot
of easy putbacks."
Bell also handled much of the defensive work on Gonzaga star Dan
Dickau, who led his team with 19 points but was only 6-of-17 from
"He's probably the best defender I've faced," Dickau said.
"He always seems to be in position. He's a strong defender, too.
There were a couple of times I had a shoulder down and thought I
was going to get into the lane. But he never gives up."
Gonzaga came in as the little team that could, reaching the
round of 16 for the third straight season even though the Bulldogs
are continually kept down by the NCAA selection committee.
"I told our guys to hold their heads high," Few said. "We
played like a champion. Maybe this will end all that silly talk
about us being a mid-major team."
Gonzaga kept it close against the Spartans throughout the first
half, grabbing its first lead, 25-24, on Mark Spink's 19-foot
jumper with six minutes left in the half.
Michigan State scored the final five points of the period for a
37-32 lead at the break, but Gonzaga came out strong.
Dickau, who was held to 1-of-5 shooting in the first half,
popped in two quick 3-pointers to push the Zags back to the lead.
They had the Georgia Dome crowd roaring with crisp passing, leading
to a layup for Spink and a dunk by Zach Gourde.
Michigan State responded by getting more active in the passing
lanes, forcing Gonzaga to go back outside. The Bulldogs couldn't
respond, shooting only 22-of-58 (38 percent) from the field.
"We're not a team that's used to struggling for points," said
Casey Calvary, held to 17 points on a 6-of-15 performance that
included several airballs. "We didn't execute as well as we
usually do. We had trouble when they made their run."
When it was over, Gonzaga had one more classy gesture before
leaving the court, trotting over as a team and clapping toward
their section of fans.
"This was the best time of my life," said Calvery, a senior.
"Just thinking about it makes me choke up."
Michigan State simply moved on, its mission still unfulfilled as
it seeks a third straight trip to the Final Four.
"All year long," Hutson said, "we've been trying to prove
we're the national champions."
Send this story to a friend
|Charlie Bell, who led the Spartans with 21 points, and Gonzaga's Mark Spink battle for the ball.|
Men's College Basketball Scoreboard
Michigan State Clubhouse
Big trouble for Spartans?
Charlie Bell says the Spartans may be overlooked.(Courtesy: NCAA Productions)
wav: 149 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6
Mark Few says Michigan State plays like champions on Friday.(Courtesy: NCAA Productions)
wav: 102 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6