Champs put clamps on Gonzaga

Michigan State ends Bulldogs' run, 77-62, reaches Elite Eight

March 24, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Michigan State made like a vampire against Gonzaga last night. The Spartans bit into the Bulldogs and sucked the life right out of them.

Gonzaga, the little Jesuit school from Spokane, Wash., that has defied the odds to become a Sweet 16 regular, led defending national champion Michigan State after 25 minutes in their South Regional semifinal at the Georgia Dome. Spurred on by coach Tom Izzo's jibe that they were playing like "wimps," the top-seeded Spartans denied the Bulldogs a basket for eight minutes and went on a 13-2 run to pull away to a 77-62 victory.

The Spartans (27-4) will be favored to make their third straight Final Four tomorrow, when they face Penn State or Temple in the South Regional championship game. Their nine straight wins in the NCAA tournament have all come by double-digit margins.

After Michigan State and Duke, Gonzaga (26-7) is the only other team in the nation to reach three straight Sweet 16s. Senior forward Casey Calvary and company reached the West final two years ago and take glee in eliminating teams from major conferences, but in the Spartans they encountered a team deep in talent and will, even if the latter was questioned by Izzo.

"Conventional wisdom tells you that we wanted to wear them down, especially in the first half," Izzo said. "We weren't getting the ball inside. They [the Bulldogs] had taken eight three-pointers [in the first half]. We are one of the worst three-point shooting teams, and we took 13. We discussed that at halftime, and made sure it didn't happen again in the second."

Toward the end of Michigan State's decisive spurt, Gonzaga was wobbly. Fatigue was visible on the faces of the 12th-seeded Bulldogs, and their weary legs led to four straight field-goal attempts that didn't even hit the rim. Gonzaga rallied briefly and made it a two-possession game with less than eight minutes left on a three-pointer by Calvary, but that just made the Spartans clamp down even harder.

"I could see they were really jogging up and down the floor and we were starting to get a lot of loose rebounds," senior forward Andre Hutson said. "We really started to push it at them. I think we had a bigger sense of urgency in the second half. I think we had to go out there and play with a little more intensity, and I think that started to wear them down."

Hutson's dunk put Michigan State ahead to stay at 45-44 with 14:07 left. It was still a one-point game, but then a three by Charlie Bell, another basket by Hutson and a jumper by Marcus Taylor extended the difference to 54-46 and made Gonzaga coach Mark Few abandon the zone that had been so effective for the first 25 minutes. When the Spartans had to go man-to-man, 510 pounds worth of Hutson and Zach Randolph were planted on the block, and the game was over.

Michigan State led the nation in rebounding margin, and out-boarded Gonzaga 39-21 during the last 30 minutes to pile up a 49-29 bulge. The Bulldogs were second in the nation in field-goal percentage, but they had their second-worst shooting game of the season, a 37.9 percent mark that started with a 6-for-17 line by Dan Dickau, the floppy-haired senior who is one of the best guards on the West Coast.

Calvary had 13 first-half points and Dickau opened the second with a pair of threes to put Gonzaga on top 38-37, but the Bulldogs' best had one basket apiece over the final 19 minutes. Bell, the combo guard who had 10 rebounds and a game-high 21 points, was always there to give Dickau a bump.

"He was the best defender I faced this year," Dickau said. "He would not quit on the defensive side, and made it very tough to get open shots."

Hutson added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and led the inside effort that led Mark Spink, a Gonzaga forward, to plead with official Tom Lopes at the end of the first half that "we're getting hammered down there!"

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