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Closer Look

No. 1 Michigan State 68, No. 1 Tennessee 64

Posted: Monday April 4, 2005 2:34PM; Updated: Monday April 4, 2005 7:49PM
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By Kelli Anderson, SI.com

One Shining Moment

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Victoria Lucas-Perry was averaging 7.3 points going into the Tennessee game, but scored 14 points for the Spartans.
AP

Surprised by Michigan State's comeback from a 16-point second-half deficit? Don't be. They own a game's last five minutes. The Spartans, as a rule, divide every game into three parts: the first twenty minutes they consider practice to get ready for the next 20 minutes. The next 15, they try to wear out their opponent mentally and physically by attacking on both ends of the court. "The last five minutes are ours," says assistant Al Brown. "With the exception of TCU, we have won all our close games this year. Against Tennessee, we reminded the players that they know how to win this game."

Here are the highlights of their final five, shining, minutes:

4:54 Victoria Lucas-Perry hits a 3-pointer, her second in little over a minute, to cut a four-point deficit to one.

1:20 Lucas-Perry hits two free throws to tie the score at 62.

1:00 Kristin Haynie sees an opening in the high post on the defensive end, sidles over from the weak side, drives right through the lane and steals the ball from Tennessee's Shanna Zolman and races to the other end for a layup to put MSU ahead, 64-62. "One of the greatest steals I've ever seen in my life," heac coach Joanne P. McCallie would say. "She was about six feet in front of the pass."

:35 After Tennessee's Lorrie Moore ties the score at 64, MSU center Kelli Roehrig makes amends for a missed layup a few minutes earlier by scoring a layup off a Haynie pass. Credit an assist to Brown, a former Tennessee assistant. "All night they had been fronting us, but coach Brown had told us that at the end of the game, they weren't going to front," recalled Roehrig. Sure enough, Nicky Anosike didn't front, "the clouds opened up,"says Roehrig, and MSU goes ahead 66-64.

:10 Tennessee tries three times to put up a layup to tie the score, but Roehrig pulls down what is to date, surely the biggest rebound of her life. "It was just a matter of blocking out," she says. "I got it, I tipped it a little bit and finally got control of it and dished to Lindsay...." Lindsay Bowen passes to Lucas-Perry on the break, who made the a layup. Final score, 68-64. .

Player Who Impressed Me

There wasn't a Michigan State player who didn't impress me, but the one who played above and beyond her usual station was Victoria Lucas-Perry, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard who averages 7.3 points a game but scored 14 points (including 3-of-4 3-pointers) and added six rebounds, four assists and two steals. She also made some huge defensive plays in the first half. "Victoria took advantage of what they gave her," said Brown. "Everybody else was pretty well shut down. She had the openings and she took advantage of them."

Courtside Confidential

After Baylor's upset of LSU, Baylor fans started chanting, prematurely, "Tennessee, Tennessee." Michigan State will remember that. There are at least two members of the Michigan State family who are not happy the Spartans extended their stay in Indy for two days: Joanne McCallie's family's rabbit, Bunny, and their dog, Kibo. "We've been gone for three weeks and he's a beautiful golden lab and he thinks we've left him," says McCallie. "I'm worried about him."... Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm broke past the NCAA bouncers to sneak into the MSU lockerroom immediately after the game to offer congratulations. ... The Spartans won't be hearing nothing but praise from their coach Monday morning. "Tennessee outrebounded us by 10," said Kelli Roehrig. "We're going to hear about it."

Championship Formula

Michigan State showed tremendous heart and composure in making one of the biggest comebacks in Final Four history to beat an SEC power and Final Four vet. But so did Baylor. Michigan State is enjoying a dream season that seems destined to finish with a trophy. But so is Baylor. Michigan State is on a mission. So is Baylor. MSU wears green. So does Baylor. Do you see my dilemma? The journeys of these two teams is so similar it's eerie. If I have to pick a winner, I'll pick MSU, but only because I think they showed a slight edge in the choreography of their post-win celebration dance. It's hard to imagine a game better than the two we saw tonight, but that's what I think we might see on Tuesday.

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