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Final Four Notebook

Donovan joins elite coaching group

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Posted: Saturday April 01, 2000 11:31 PM

  Tom Izzo and Morris Peterson Morris Peterson, taking instruction from coach Tom Izzo, scored 16 second half points to ignite the Spartans. AP

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Florida coach Billy Donovan is the sixth man to play and coach in the Final Four. He was a member of the 1987 Providence team that lost to Syracuse in the semifinals.

The others to appear in the Final Four as a player and coach are Vic Bubas, Dick Harp, Bob Knight, Bones McKinney and Dean Smith. Of those, only Knight and Smith played for and coached championship teams.

"Right now, the season's unbelievable," Donovan said after Florida's 71-59 semifinal victory over North Carolina on Saturday night.

"Our guys had great intensity to start the game, and Carolina switched their defense a little bit. Carolina came out great to start the second half. About the 10-minute mark, we started to wear them down a bit."

Near-record low

Michigan State's 53-41 victory over Wisconsin Saturday night marked the fewest combined points in an NCAA semifinal game since Georgetown beat Kentucky 53-40 in 1984.

The Spartans and Badgers also combined for 36 points in the first half, the fourth-fewest points ever in the NCAA semifinals.

"Under the basket was tough," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We did a decent job defensively, but we just missed some shots."

Michigan State led 17-8 with 11:37 to go, but managed only two free throws the rest of the half for a 19-17 lead.

The record first-half low also involved Wisconsin, which trailed Pittsburgh 18-14 in 1941. Oregon State and Oklahoma State tied the mark with 32 points in 1949. Ohio State and Villanova combined for 35 points in 1939.

"We got more movement on offense and got some openings for Pete," Izzo said of the second half, when Morris Peterson had 16 of his 20 points. "Mateen [Cleaves] ran our break better and we finally broke them down a little bit with our break."

Off the rim

Greg Paavola's million-dollar shot was just off the mark.

The Three Rivers, Mich., man, randomly selected to participate in the annual Gillette 3-Point Challenge, bounced the ball off the rim between Saturday night's semifinal games. Instead of a $2 million payoff, he had to settle for a $25,000 consolation prize.

"If it was meant to happen it would happen," said Paavola, 37, who planned to use part of his winnings for college tuition for his three sons.

Paavola was coached by Hall of Famer Rick Barry.

Had he made the 3-pointer, the Gillette Women's Cancers Foundation, Inc., also would have received $2 million. The company paid out $2 million last year when Alicia Brown of Riverside, Calif., hit a 3-pointer during the semifinals in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Faced them all

Purdue coach Gene Keady has a unique perspective on the Final Four.

His Boilermakers were the only team to play each of the Final Four teams this season. In the regular season, Purdue beat Florida and Michigan State, split a pair of games against Wisconsin and lost to North Carolina. The Boilermakers also lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament and in the NCAA regionals.

"We're going to have a Big Ten team in the finals, and I like that," he said. "And my house-mate in college was Bill Guthridge, so I like North Carolina."

Keady said it was "a shame" either Michigan State or Wisconsin had to lose.

"I like both coaches a lot, and I like their fans," he said.

Faces in the crowd

Among the spectators in the RCA Dome was Magic Johnson, who led Michigan State to the 1979 NCAA championship over Indiana State.

"It's great. They deserve it," Johnson said after the Spartans' victory. "They've worked hard to get here. Now they've got one more. Their defense has been the key."

Michigan State lost to Duke in the semifinals last year.

"Because they were used to it last year, being in the Final Four, they were more comfortable this year," Johnson said.

Others in the crowd included former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Ali lives in Berrien Springs, Mich., and has attended several Spartans games in East Lansing. They were sitting about a dozen rows behind the courtside press row.

Third timer

North Carolina's Ed Cota reached the Final Four for the third time, still looking for his first victory.

The Tar Heels lost to eventual champion Arizona in the 1997 semifinals, also in the RCA Dome, and to Utah in the semifinals in 1998. They were upset by Weber State in the first round last year.

"You really can't learn much from your past experience," Cota said. "It's a totally different team and a totally different year."

North Carolina, which had 13 losses this season, got into the tournament with an at-large bid and a No. 8 seed, which tied its lowest ever.

"It really didn't matter what seed we got," Cota said. "We were going to be motivated regardless because we felt we had something to prove to ourselves and our coaches."

Final game

Jody Silvester's first Final Four game as a referee was in Michigan State's semifinal victory over Pennsylvania in 1979, and his last was Saturday night in Florida's semifinal against North Carolina.

The 63-year-old official is retiring after four decades as a college referee. He was assigned last week to one of the two semifinals in the RCA Dome, but he didn't find out which one until Saturday.

Silvester has officiated in every NCAA tournament since 1979, when Michigan State went on to the beat Indiana State in the championship game. This year, he also worked the first and second rounds in Nashville, Tenn., where he officiated the Tulsa-UNLV and Miami-Ohio State games.

Related information
Spartans badger Wisconsin to reach title game
Grant Wahl Q & A: Wisconsin just ugly's Final Four coverage
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