Saturday, March 29, 2003

Michigan State 60, Maryland 58

No last-second save for Terrapins

The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO - Paul Davis was angry with himself for being soft.

At 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, the Michigan State freshman has plenty of strength to take to the basket. But he wasn't using it, and he knew it. So he vowed things would be different if he got another chance.

Davis got two and capitalized on both, throwing down a ferocious tying dunk with 50.6 seconds left, then muscling his way for the winning shot as the Spartans ended Maryland's title reign with a 60-58 victory in a South Regional semifinal Friday night.

"I really didn't think I had a great game up to that point," said Davis, who had a team-best 13 points. "I took some balls up kind of weak early on. Those last two plays, I just knew we needed baskets. I had the ball in my hands, so I just did what I could with it."

In the final seconds, though, the ball was in the hands of Steve Blake, Maryland's starting point guard the last four years.

He dribbled to a spot a few feet behind the top of the key, got set and put up a 3-pointer the Terrapins were convinced would send them to the regional finals for the third straight year.

They'd already had one such dramatic winner, an on-the-run shot from Drew Nicholas that beat North Carolina-Wilmington in the first round, and expected another would follow.

It didn't. The ball hit the back iron and bounced away, leaving all five Terps on the court frozen with shoulders slumped and blank looks on their faces.

"I got a good look," Blake said. "It just didn't go in."

Nicholas said Thursday that he never expected to lose the UNC-Wilmington game. He probably felt the same way in this game, especially after the Terps (20-10) went from trailing by 13 with 8:07 left to leading 55-54 with 3:44 to go.

Maryland's comeback was fueled by a full-court press. The Spartans (22-12) were so sloppy with the ball that they only got off two shots during the Terps' rally.

Yet they were still able to pull out their eighth win in nine games to get one win from the Final Four - an incredible feat for a team that was 14-11 on Feb. 23 and in jeopardy of not even making the tournament.

The seventh-seeded Spartans, the lowest seed left in the tournament, play Sunday against Texas. The top-seeded Longhorns advanced by beating Connecticut 82-78.

"With a couple of big plays down the stretch, I've got to give my team credit for finding a way," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "It's about survival and moving on. I think we could have quit and we didn't."

Michigan State led by 10 in the opening minutes and held Maryland to 24 points in the first half, matching its lowest 20 minutes of the season.

Even when the Terps tied it at 32 early in the second half, the Spartans responded with a 15-2 run that seemed to put the game away. When Blake missed a wide-open layup, Maryland really looked out of it.

Then came a late surge befitting a senior class that came in 13-2 in tournament games.

In the end, though, they wound up 13-3. The only team that made the regional finals - and the Final Four - the last two years couldn't make it three in a row.

"The loss really hurts," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "But I'm glad you got to see what they're made of. Tonight was just another example of that."

Michigan State's Alan Anderson and Maurice Ager each scored 10. Chris Hill had eight points and five assists. Erazem Lorbek, who came in averaging team bests with 14.5 points and six rebounds in the tournament, fouled out with only five points and one rebound in 16 minutes.

Maryland lost freshman starter Nik Caner-Medley to a dislocated left ankle midway through the first half. After scoring 18 points over the first two tournament games, he went out before taking a shot.

Blake had 11 points and five steals, but only three assists. He also had five turnovers. He ends his career with the fifth-most assists in NCAA history.

The Terps hit just 2-of-16 on 3-pointers, with Nicholas going 1-of-7 and Blake 1-of-5.

MICH. ST. (22-12)-Hill 3-14 0-0 8, Anderson 4-8 2-2 10, Torbert 1-6 0-0 2, Anagonye 2-4 0-0 4, Lorbek 1-3 2-4 5, Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Ager 4-8 0-0 10, Bograkos 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 5-7 3-3 13, Andreas 0-0 0-0 0, Ballinger 2-5 3-3 8. Totals 22-56 10-12 60.

MARYLAND (20-10)-McCall 2-4 0-0 4, Nicholas 6-14 5-5 18, Blake 3-9 4-4 11, Randle 2-10 2-2 6, Holden 2-7 4-6 8, Smith 3-6 1-1 7, Collins 0-1 0-0 0, Garrison 0-0 0-0 0, Gilchrist 2-3 0-0 4, Caner-Medley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-54 16-18 58.

Halftime-Michigan St. 29-24. 3-Point Goals-Michigan St. 6-17 (Ager 2-4, Hill 2-7, Ballinger 1-2, Lorbek 1-2, Johnson 0-1, Torbert 0-1), Maryland 2-16 (Blake 1-5, Nicholas 1-7, Collins 0-1, McCall 0-1, Holden 0-2). Fouled out-Lorbek. Rebounds-Michigan St. 37 (Anagonye 8), Maryland 33 (Holden 9). Assists-Michigan St. 10 (Hill 5), Maryland 8 (Blake 3). Total fouls-Michigan St. 20, Maryland 15. A-33,009.

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