Michigan State repeats its joy, Chaney's despair

Champs' 69-62 victory ensures Final 4 return

Temple ace 0-5 in finals

Ncaa Tournament

March 26, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Michigan State keeps winning games, if not friends, in the NCAA tournament. On the day off at the South Regional, Spartans coach Tom Izzo joked that his team had just eliminated America's favorite underdog, Gonzaga, and now it had to take down America's coach, John Chaney of Temple.

Displaying plenty of respect but little sentiment, defending champion Michigan State started fast in each half and led the entire way to beat 11th-seeded Temple, 69-62, in the South final at the Georgia Dome yesterday. The result left Chaney 0-5 in regional finals and continued the Spartans' quest to become the first repeat champion since Duke in 1991 and '92.

The game was drenched in history and had an old-time finish, when everyone on both teams, from coaches to the last man, lined up to shake hands, like a youth game. Temple is Michigan State's kind of team, gritty and resourceful.

"John Chaney stands for everything I believe in, and hopefully, I can last as many years as he has," Izzo said. "I love his discipline, his lectures to his players. I feel fortunate and honored to play them and beat them. The guy deserves to be in a Final Four. It's a shame he hasn't gotten there. I still think he will. He's got some games left."

Michigan State (28-4) won it all in Indianapolis last year, and will return to Big Ten country Saturday in Minneapolis, where it meets Arizona in the Final Four semifinal before the Maryland-Duke Atlantic Coast Conference match.

Izzo, the fifth-year coach who ran his NCAA tournament record to 16-2, has never lost to a team seeded below his. Michigan State was a No. 1 seed for the third straight time, and the Spartans have incredible balance, in their lineup and at both ends of the floor. Against Temple, unheralded wing David Thomas was the offensive star, and for all of the hype over Chaney's matchup zone, Michigan State impressed with its defensive work.

Thomas had scored 26 in the Spartans' seven previous games, and didn't have a single point in Friday's semifinal win over Gonzaga. He made two jumpers on the left side in the first 75 seconds, however, the spread ballooned to 14-5 and the Owls (24-13) never had a shot at the lead. Thomas finished with a career-high 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

Guard Charlie Bell added 14, forward Andre Hutson had 11 and 10 rebounds and wing Jason Richardson also had 11. Freshman force Zach Randolph had a season-high 14 rebounds, as the nation's best rebounding team had a 43-27 bulge on the boards; the game was nearly five minutes old before Temple got its first rebound.

The Spartans made 48.1 percent of their field-goal attempts, the third-best mark by a Temple opponent this season. The Owls, conversely, dipped to 38.1 percent shooting, and the 17.4 percent (four of 23) showing from three-point range was their worst this season. Michigan State adeptly switched when it couldn't fight through screens designed to free point guard Lynn Greer and Quincy Wadley, and Izzo changed his stripes and briefly used a zone.

Greer had a game-high 22 points, but he made just seven of 21 shots. Wadley was 2-for-12, silent other than a pair of possessions in the second half. Twice the Owls had a shot to get within one down the stretch, and both times they were unable to get the ball to their best shooters.

Bell and Thomas led Michigan State's remarkable work on the perimeter, which allowed its big men to double Kevin Lyde, who had 14 of his 21 points in the first half.

"They played great team defense," Greer said. "Every time you got by someone, there was always someone else there helping out. They have great recovery and get in your face every shot."

Michigan State built a 27-15 lead on Richardson's three-point play, but Lyde and then Greer steadied Temple and got it within 30-27 at the half. The Owls were down 55-51 when Alex Wesby's open three wouldn't drop. Still down four two possessions later, freshman David Hawkins had an even better look in the right corner, but his shot went in and out. Hawkins fouled Hutson, who made two free throws, and Chaney's mission fell short again.

Chaney, 69, was foiled in his quest to become the oldest coach to win an NCAA title and the first in 15 years to take a No. 11 seed to the Final Four. His last four regional final losses have been to No. 1 seeds, North Carolina in 1991, Michigan in '93, Duke two years ago and now a potent Michigan State team.

"I am certainly feeling low because I could not get these kids to the Final Four," Chaney said, "but at the same time I am high because they got me this far. It is so difficult not to be able to make that step."

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