Blake's missed dunk foreshadowed final shotPosted: Saturday March 29, 2003 2:29 AM
By Mike Finger, Special to SI.com
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- When Steve Blake got his hands on the ball with just under 11 minutes remaining in the South Regional semifinals on Friday night, everything was already beginning to slip away.
Marylandís hopes of defending its national championship were fading. The Terrapinsí swagger was disappearing. Any fear of the turtle was long gone.
And yet as Blake stole a pass, broke ahead of the pack at midcourt and soared into the Alamodome air for a dunk without a defender in sight, it was as if Maryland still had some magic left.
But in a bit of foreshadowing, Blake's dunk attempt wound up much like the Terpsí comeback effort overall -- just a bit short.
Despite moments of promise that lingered all the way to the final buzzer, Maryland never came up with the crowning blow that so many college basketball fans had grown accustomed to seeing from Gary Williamsí team over the past three years.
So great was the aura surrounding the Terps that it was as if everyone in the Alamodome fully expected Blakeís desperation 3-pointer to go in as time expired in Michigan Stateís 60-58 victory.
"I still thought we were going to win with 4.7 seconds left," Williams said, referring to the time remaining before Marylandís final possession. "When Steve took the shot, I thought it was going in."
"I was thinking, 'We're going to win the game again,'" Blake said. "I was definitely thinking positive thoughts. The sign of a champion is never giving up."
But surprisingly enough, the young, inexperienced Spartans had confidence to match, even after they blew a 14-point lead by committing five turnovers in a four-minute span late in the second half.
Immediately after Maryland took its first lead of the game with 3:45 remaining, Michigan State buckled down. The Spartans closed off the driving lanes that had opened for the Terps in the preceding minutes, then turned to a baby-faced freshman, who proved he could handle pressure.
Not only did Paul Davis score all of Michigan Stateís last six points, but he also did so under incredible duress. A spinning floater with a hand in his face to put the Spartans up by a point with 2:50 left. A driving dunk with the shot clock winding down, tying the score with 59 seconds remaining. And then, after one Maryland defender grabbed him by the jersey and another cut off the right baseline, a twirling bank shot to give the Spartans the lead for good.
"He stepped up to the plate and made some big-time plays," MSU forward Alan Anderson said.
"Those [last] two plays would have never happened if I hadnít gotten two great passes," said Davis, who came off the bench to lead the Spartans with 13 points. "That last play wasnít even designed for me."
Nonetheless, it certainly impressed MSU coach Tom Izzo, who looked nothing short of relieved after the game.
"He made an incredibly athletic play, to go in the air and get it to go in," Izzo said. "But letís face it -- we got a little lucky."Mike Finger covers college basketball for the San Antonio Express-News. He is a regular contributor to SI.com.