Hot hand, heavy heart
Michigan State's Thomas produces career game
Updated: Monday March 26, 2001 1:08 AM
ATLANTA (AP) -- With a heavy heart and a smooth shooting stroke, David Thomas played the best game of his life.
The Michigan State senior had a career-high 19 points, on 8-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals as the Spartans beat Temple 69-62 Sunday to reach the Final Four.
Thomas had plenty of other things to think about.
His mother is about to undergo radiation to battle breast cancer. His grandmother has had two heart attacks recently. And his 38-year-old cousin, Wayne, has been told by doctors that lung cancer will take his life any day.
Thomas said his ailing relatives inspired him.
"I played for them," Thomas said. "It's been on my mind constantly."
Thomas, who made the South's all-regional team, consistently made Temple pay for not guarding him tightly.
Temple coach John Chaney's strategy made sense -- on paper.
Thomas averaged 4.8 points this season and 3.0 for his career, with a single-game best of 12 points before Sunday. In 12 previous NCAA tournament games, he had scored a total of 20 points.
Chaney "is a great coach and he has great ideas, but maybe this wasn't one of them," Thomas said.
The 6-foot-7 forward scored the first two baskets of the game on mid-range jumpers. Then, with 1:01 left, he essentially sealed the victory with a 3-pointer that gave Michigan State a 65-57 lead.
"I had a great view of that one," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Thomas wasn't shocked to be left alone by Temple because, on a team with so many offensive options, he usually doesn't draw much attention.
He even was recruited by accident.
Izzo was scouting Jamal Magloire, who ended up at Kentucky, but noticed a skinny but intriguing player playing on the other team.
It was Thomas.
Injuries, inconsistent play and a deep roster relegated Thomas to role-player status throughout his Michigan State career.
Against Temple, though, he was a star.
"It felt good to play like I did for myself, but also for Coach Izzo because he's always believed in me," Thomas said. "Coach Izzo has always been on my side."