Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Michigan State upsets Connecticut to reach NCAA final

DETROIT — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was looking for a bit of motivational magic before Saturday's national semifinal showdown against Connecticut and turned to, among others, an old alumnus:

Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the hero of the Spartans' first championship team 30 years ago.

"Nobody tops Earvin; he's the best," Izzo said.

"Magic just told us to focus and know our assignments and play hard," added sophomore guard Durrell Summers. "He said if we play hard, we won't have any regrets or any worries."

The Spartans went out and, further buoyed by legions of green-clad fans among the Final Four-record 72,456 who transformed Ford Field into a St. Patrick's Day block party, did all of those things and, as promised, had no worries.

They used their deeper bench and desire to overwhelm the favored Connecticut Huskies, 82-73, and advance to Monday's championship game for the first time since 2000, the year they beat Florida to win the program's second title.

The No. 2-seeded Spartans (31-6), the first team since Duke in 1994 to play in a Final Four in its home state, has beaten two straight No. 1 seeds from the Big East, Louisville and UConn (31-5).

"Tommy Izzo is one of my best friends," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "He's a future Hall of Fame coach. He's probably going to win his second national championship on Monday. Yet I think in all honesty, and I truly, truly believe this, they played different. …

"We've seen teams they played. We saw tapes of games. And that's a different team."

Down 49-47 early in the second half, the Spartans demolished the stereotype that Big Ten teams walk the ball up the court at every turn. They ran it.

"We thought we had depth over them," Izzo said. "That's why we had to run and wanted to run."

In a 66-second span in the second half, reserve forward Draymond Green tied the score on a fastbreak dunk, point guard Kalin Lucas followed with a fastbreak layup on which he split two defenders to get the shot off then backup guard Chris Allen added a layup for a 53-49 lead.

Later in the half, forward Raymar Morgan stole the ball in the frontcourt and fed Summers for a breathtaking dunk over Stanley Robinson that gave Michigan State a 66-56 lead.

The Spartans outscored UConn 22-10 on fastbreaks.

Raymar, who has struggled with illness and injuries this season and was wearing a mask after breaking his nose last week, all but sealed the win with a fastbreak dunk for a 71-60 lead with just 3:18 left. Raymar finished with 18 points after mustering seven total in his three previous NCAA games.

Lucas had 21 points, freshman guard Korie Lucious added 11 (all in the first half) and Summers had 10 as the Spartans bench outscored UConn's 33-7, which Calhoun called "enormous."

The Spartans call it pure magic.

Brian Landman can be reached at or (813) 226-3347.

Monday: National final

No. 2 Michigan State vs. North Carolina, 9:21

Where: Ford Field, Detroit

TV: Ch. 10

More coverage, 8-9C

No. 2 Michigan St. 82

No. 1 Connecticut 73

Michigan State upsets Connecticut to reach NCAA final 04/04/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 5, 2009 7:51am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger


    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …

  2. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  3. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with Rays broadcasting director Larry McCabe when he …

  4. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater


    Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    Corey Dickerson is doing everything he can to garner All-Star votes heading into tonight's voting cutoff, going into play Wednesday leading the AL with 101 hits and rapping two more his first two times up, and scoring two more runs.