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Spartans Subdue Blue Devils

Fifth Seed Flexes Muscles, Pushes On to Round of 8 by Shoving Top Seed Out : Michigan St. 78, Duke 68

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 26, 2005; Page D01

AUSTIN, March 25 -- The momentum had swung against Duke well before Shelden Williams fouled out against Michigan State in Friday's NCAA Austin Region semifinal. With Williams on the bench and nearly three minutes remaining, the undermanned Blue Devils simply couldn't win the rebounding battle and continue fending off the onslaught of well-rested Spartans who sped around the court as fresh and dry as actors in an Arid commercial.

And that's how the 2005 season ended for Duke, with one of its chief weapons on the sideline and all the sweat, grit and heart in the world not enough to compensate, as fifth-seeded Michigan State rolled to a 78-68 upset of the region's top seed at Erwin Center.


Spartans' Drew Neitzel, left, and Paul Davis (game-high 20 points, 12 rebounds) hug as Sean Dockery walks away after the Spartans prevailed. (David J. Phillip -- AP)

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The victory was Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo's first over Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Even better, it sent his Spartans into Sunday's round of eight, where second-seeded Kentucky awaits with a Final Four berth on the line.

But the Michigan State upset also spoiled the dreamy pairing fans were clamoring to see Sunday: Duke vs. Kentucky in a rematch of the 1992 region semifinal that ended with Christian Laettner draining an 18-footer as overtime expired.

Izzo's plan had been to take Duke guards J.J. Redick and Daniel Ewing out of the equation, and it worked, transforming the game from a long-range shooting display to an elbow-heaving grudge match under the basket.

"For the most part, I thought we played the game just the way we wanted to play it," Izzo said. "We did a pretty good job on Redick [13 points] and Ewing [18 points]. We beat a very, very, very good team and a very well-coached team. I'm just tickled to death to win."

Alan Anderson was stellar on both ends of the court, stripping Duke players five times while nabbing eight rebounds and pouring in 17 points. Center Paul Davis led the Spartans with 20 points and ultimately prevailed in the battle of big men, as Duke's Williams (19 points) fouled out with 2 minutes 41 seconds remaining.

The first half was ugly.

Michigan State shot just 36 percent, missing all six of its three-point attempts and hitting less than 50 percent when standing within three feet of the basket.

But the Spartans compensated with an opportunistic defense, forcing 22 turnovers (12 in the first half), and threw a dizzying lineup of 13 players at the Blue Devils.

"We had to use our depth to our advantage," Anderson said. "Ain't no point in having a 10-, 11-man rotation if everybody's not going to get after it. We were putting as much pressure on them as possible."

A succession of players blanketed Redick at every step, preventing Duke's top scorer from getting his first basket until more than nine minutes had elapsed.

Ewing got more open looks and made most of them, but he was sloppy with the ball, stripped repeatedly.

Points were slow in coming for both teams. With Spartans defenders at every turn, Duke's guards patiently worked the ball inside to Williams. But each time Duke extended a slight lead, Michigan State clamped down and clawed back to knot the score at 32 at halftime.

The Spartans found their shooting range in the second half, taking their first lead of the game on back-to-back three-pointers. As Blue Devils gaped and gasped, Shannon Brown stripped Ewing again and sped down court to make it 40-36.

The Devils' swagger seemed to drain from their bodies, and Michigan State sensed it.

"We really just wanted to get after them and wear them out," junior guard Maurice Ager said. "At the end, we could tell they were a little bit tired."

Anderson hit consecutive three-point shots to put Michigan State up, 48-39.

Duke closed within three when Williams was called for his fourth foul. And it sealed Duke's fate.

Michigan State made its free throws down the stretch, while Duke went stone cold.

Afterward Izzo congratulated his players on accomplishing something no Michigan State team had done since 1958: beating Duke. "They weren't letting us win," Izzo said. "We had to beat 'em."

Said Krzyzewski: "You either want to season to end in jubilation or crying because that will show if you've played with emotion. There was a lot of crying in our locker room afterward -- not because we lost, but because it's over."


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