April 4, 2009

 

DETROIT (AP) -Of course Big Ten teams run. Wait, that's football.

Michigan State more than held its own against Connecticut, another great rebounding team. What moved the Spartans into the NCAA championship game was their ability to get out and run and score in transition against the Huskies.

The final score of 82-73 on Saturday night didn't have people scrambling for the record book, but there were plenty of heads shaking back and forth in Ford Field as the Spartans broke open a tight game in the second half by getting out on the break.

Michigan State broke a 44-44 tie early in the second half when freshman Korie Lucious hit a jumper after the Spartans took off after grabbing a missed shot. The Huskies went back up 49-47 on a rebound basket by Stanley Robinson with 14:33 left.

Michigan State's next three baskets came on the break - a dunk by Draymond Green, a layup by Lucious and a layup by Chris Allen - and the lead belonged to the Spartans for the rest of the game.

Overall, the Spartans outscored UConn 22-10 on fastbreak points.

Remember, Michigan State came from a conference that is known for low-scoring, physical games. It wasn't a shock this season to see a final score in Big Ten with both teams below 60 points, and every basket was usually a contested shot down low after time had been run off the 35-second shot clock.

The green-clad fans among the 72,456 in the football stadium that was hosting a basketball game were roaring at the running.

Spartans coach Tom Izzo was standing with both hands up, signaling his team to take its time since it had a 62-54 lead with less than 8 minutes to play. His players listened, for a while.

Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet turned the ball over right at the 6-minute mark. The ball was flipped ahead to Durrell Summers on the break and Robinson was with him step for step toward the basket.

Summers, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard, went up and threw down a thunder dunk with Robinson right there. The building was as loud as it had been all game. Jimmy Jackson, a former All-America at Ohio State in the early 1990s and now a commentator for the Big Ten Network, jumped up in his seat and let out a whoop.

There were still almost 6 minutes to play but Michigan State had broken the game open on the break and the Spartans were in the championship game for the second time under Izzo and the first was when they won it all in 2000.