Maryland vs. Michigan State

March 28, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht

Tonight's game

What: NCAA tournament South Regional semifinals.

Site: Alamodome, San Antonio.

Time: 9:57 approximately.

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WBAL (1090 AM).

Line: Maryland by 3 1/2 .

The teams

Maryland: No. 6 seed, 21-9; edged UNC-Wilmington, 75-73, then beat third-seeded Xavier, 77-64, in the first two rounds; 20th NCAA tournament appearance.

Michigan State: No. 7 seed, 21-12; beat Colorado, 79-64, then crushed second-seeded Florida, 68-46, in the first two rounds; 17th NCAA tournament appearance.

Backcourts

Maryland: Seniors Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas have been the Terps' backbone all season. Blake, who led the ACC for three straight seasons in assists, had 16 assists and just three turnovers in the first two rounds and reversed a recent shooting slump by going 6-for-12 last weekend. Nicholas has won two late-season games with last-second shots, the most important of which was a week ago against UNC-Wilmington. He is playing his best ball of the season at the right time.

Michigan State: Sophomores Chris Hill and Kelvin Torbert lack the experience of Maryland's duo, although they might be able to bully Blake and Nicholas with their size advantage. Torbert weighs 215 pounds, Hill 190. Hill is the only Spartan who averages in double figures in scoring. He is a good distributor who also isn't shy about shooting, having averaged more than seven three-point attempts a game. Torbert is averaging just five points in his past four games, but his defense on Nicholas could be key.

Edge: Maryland.

Frontcourts

Maryland: The senior front line of Ryan Randle and Tahj Holden is a huge key for the Terps tonight. Randle was active and aggressive last weekend, scoring 32 points and grabbing 21 rebounds to end a recent slump. His rebounding could be a deciding factor. Holden plays solid defense and makes good passes most nights, but has averaged just six points and four rebounds in his past three games and has missed 13 of his 16 tournament shots.

Michigan State: Aloysius Anagonye and Erazem Lorbek can match Randle and Holden in bulk, although Lorbek is a freshman who has started just 14 games. Lorbek ranks second on the Spartans in field-goal percentage (.537) and is averaging 10.8 points in his past four games. Anagonye is a 6-foot-8, 260-pound senior who leads the Spartans in rebounding (5.3) but still only plays about 22 minutes a game.

Edge: Maryland.

Benches

Maryland: This is where the contest ultimately could be decided. Maryland goes five deep among its reserves and features athleticism in freshman point guard John Gilchrist and junior center Jamar Smith. Their quickness could loom large tonight, as could the rebounding of senior guard Calvin McCall and the play of 6-9 freshman Travis Garrison, who is coming off one of his best games of late.

Michigan State: The Spartans rely heavily on wide-bodied backups down low, where 6-9 senior forward Adam Ballinger and 6-11 freshman center Paul Davis bring beef and toughness. Davis is averaging an impressive 7.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in only 17.6 minutes of play. Ballinger started as a junior and averaged 11.2 points, but he returned to the bench with effectiveness this season. Freshman guard Maurice Ager is shooting 61.5 percent in the NCAAs and averaging 11.0 points in the postseason.

Edge: Michigan State.

Coaches

Maryland: Gary Williams has taken the Terps to 10 consecutive NCAA tournaments, seven Sweet 16 rounds and back-to-back Final Fours. He was the only coach to advance to back-to-back Elite Eights a year ago, lost four starters from his national championship team and has Maryland within one victory of a third straight Elite Eight appearance.

Michigan State: Tom Izzo is as good as they come, particularly in postseason play. He guided the Spartans to three consecutive Final Four appearances beginning in 1999, won the NCAA title in 2000, and has held together a team dogged by injuries enough to position the Spartans for another Final Four run. Izzo is 18-4 in NCAA tournament play.

Edge: Michigan State.

Keys to victory

Maryland: Gain control of the tempo by getting out in transition and using its athleticism to its advantage. Get Randle and Holden involved early on offense. Holden has to get his shooting touch back, and the Terps must rebound effectively. Blake and Nicholas must not be bullied on the perimeter, where Michigan State extends its defense well. Their defense on Hill is critical, as is freshman Nik Caner-Medley's matchup on 6-6 sophomore small forward Alan Anderson.

Michigan State: Hill has been the Spartans' leading scorer all season, and he most likely needs to dictate the offense to get Michigan State over the hump tonight. Down low, the Spartans will rely on their size, bulk and depth to wear down the Terps, who will be severely tested on the boards. The Spartans have shown a tendency to run, but they probably would be best suited by slowing the game down and keeping the score in the 60's.

Bottom line

This will be no walk in the park for Maryland, which advanced by running by Xavier and pushing the Musketeers around. The Terps have to be at their most physical tonight on the glass and have to make their open shots and squeeze enough points out of their fast break. Blake and Nicholas will see to it that Maryland plays for one more day.

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