Tough Mich. State finds soft touch in routing Florida

Spartans coach Izzo calls 68-46 win `about the best we could play'

South Regional

NCAA Tournament

March 24, 2003|By George Diaz | George Diaz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TAMPA, Fla. - Perception became reality last night for the Florida Gators and Michigan State Spartans.

The Gators did nothing to dispel their image as a talented finesse team that was too soft to handle Michigan State's physical touch.

Michigan State routed Florida, 68-46, to advance to the Sweet 16, quieting a crowd of 21,304 prominently showing their orange and blue colors at the St. Petersburg Times Forum.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo labeled the victory "about the best we could play," and there were certainly no dissidents in the building.

"We did not make enough plays," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

The Gators (25-8), in losing a rematch of the 2000 national championship game, came up a bunch of protein shakes short against a team that had a powerful combination of elbows and quicks.

Michigan State shot 56 percent, outscored the Gators 14-0 on fast-break points, and snatched nine offensive rebounds, often sliding through seams in the Gators zone for second and third opportunities. Overall, the Spartans out-rebounded Florida 30-22.

They even out-shot Florida in its specialty, the long ball, making one more three-pointer (six to five) than the Gators.

"We were able to get clean rebounds and run. That kind of gets our whole game going," Michigan State guard Chris Hill said. "For whatever reason, they weren't able to get going."

It was all March Sadness for the Gators again: Their 46 points marked a season low for the Gators, who scored no fewer than 55 points in their previous 32 games. Florida, the No. 2 seed in the South Regional, had not advanced past the second round since its run to the NCAA championship game three years ago.

In seven seasons under Donovan, the Gators had never scored fewer than 50 points.

Michigan State (21-12), the No. 7 seed, advances to play Maryland in San Antonio on Friday.

"I think this is one time," Izzo said, "that you have to give us more credit than them blame.

"It doesn't get much better than what happened for us tonight. It was one of those games where I couldn't believe it myself."

Props to Michigan State all-around: Three players were in double figures, led by freshman guard Maurice Ager with 16 points. Forward Erazem Lorbek and Hill each had 12.

Florida was led by sophomore David Lee with 16 points.

The Gators trailed just 23-20 with six minutes left in the first half but were outscored 14-7 the rest of the way. In that span, Michigan State had three dunks as well as two backbreaking three-pointers as the shot clock wound down.

"Somebody asked me if I was shocked, Gators senior Justin Hamilton said. "The only thing I'm shocked about is that we didn't lose by more."

Florida freshman guard Anthony Roberson, a Saginaw, Mich., native who caused a ripple back home with his late decision to shun Izzo's four-year recruiting effort, finished 0-for-6 with two assists.

At one point in the second half, after a missed Michigan State shot seemed to slink its way between three Gators and into the hands of a Spartan, Roberson grimaced on the bench and slammed his towel onto the court.

"It's just sad that we had to end the season not playing our best game," Roberson said. "We played hard, but we just couldn't make a basket."

But Michigan State made something more lasting, its coach said.

"I told the guys that this was a memory maker - the kind of thing they'll remember in 10 or 15 years," Izzo said.

George Diaz is a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Wire services contributed to this article.

MICHIGAN STATE-Anderson 1-3 5-7 7, Lorbek 4-7 2-4 12, Anagonye 3-3 0-0 6, Hill 5-8 0-0 12, Torbert 2-8 3-4 7, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Ager 6-9 2-2 16, Bograkos 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 4-5 0-1 8, Andreas 0-0 0-0 0, Westrick 0-1 0-0 0, Ballinger 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-45 12-18 68. FLORIDA-Bonner 2-9 0-1 6, Walsh 2-6 0-0 5, Lee 5-8 6-7 16, Roberson 0-6 0-0 0, Hamilton 5-7 0-0 12, Boggan 0-0 0-0 0, Moss 1-1 0-0 2, Capko 0-0 0-0 0, Nelson 0-4 0-0 0, Drejer 0-0 3-4 3, Al-Kaleem 0-0 0-0 0, Colas 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 16-43 9-12 46. Halftime-Michigan St., 37-27. 3-point goals-Michigan St. 6-16 (Ager 2-5, Hill 2-5, Lorbek 2-5, Torbert 0-1), Florida 5-21 (Hamilton 2-2, Bonner 2-6, Walsh 1-3, Nelson 0-4, Roberson 0-6). Fouled out-Anagonye. Rebounds-Michigan St. 30 (Lorbek 7), Florida 22 (Bonner 6). Assists-Michigan St. 15 (Anderson 5), Florida 9 (Walsh 3). Total fouls-Michigan St. 18, Florida 20. A-21,304.

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