SI.com 2003 Men's NCAA Tourney 2003 Men's NCAA Tourney


Out with the old

Blake misses last-second 3 as defending champs fall

Posted: Saturday March 29, 2003 12:46 AM
Updated: Saturday March 29, 2003 3:24 AM
  Paul Davis, Drew Nicholas Paul Davis scored the Spartans' final six points, including this game-winner. AP

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Right to the final shot, the Maryland Terrapins were convinced their title reign would go on.

Then that last shot missed. And they didn't seem to know what to do.

With shoulders slumped and blank looks on their faces, the Terps stood still as the Michigan State Spartans danced around them in celebration of a 60-58 victory in the South Regional semifinals Friday night.

"It hurts," said Drew Nicholas, whose 3-pointer at the buzzer sent Maryland past North Carolina-Wilmington in the first round, convincing the team their repeat hopes were alive and well. "It's my last season. I wanted to make it special, and we had a chance to."

Instead, it was a freshman who made some special memories.

Michigan State's Paul Davis had a dunk with 50.6 seconds left to tie it, then muscled his way to a leaning bank shot with 4.7 seconds left to send the seventh-seeded Spartans into the regional finals for the third time in four years.


 SI.com's Mike Finger 

As Steve Blake stole a pass, broke ahead of the pack at mid-court 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.

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"Those last two plays, I just knew we needed baskets," said Davis, who had a team-best 13 points. "I had the ball in my hands, so I just did what I could with it."

MSU, the lowest seed left in the tournament, won for the eighth time in nine games. Being one win from the Final Four is an incredible feat for a team that was 14-11 on Feb. 23 and in jeopardy of not even making the tournament.

The Spartans (22-12) play Sunday against top-seeded Texas. The Longhorns advanced by beating Connecticut 82-78.

The Terps (20-10) overcame a 13-point deficit with 8:07 left and still expected to win even when Davis' basket put them down two with 4.7 seconds left.

Steve Blake dribbled to the top of the key, got set and put up a 3-pointer that could've won it. But the ball hit the back iron and bounced away, prompting the wildly different reactions by both teams.

"I got a good look," Blake said. "It just didn't go in."

The Terps were the only team that made the Final Four the last two years -- and the only one to even make the regional finals both times.

"The loss really hurts," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "But I'm glad you got to see what they're made of. Tonight was just another example of that."

Michigan State was in control nearly the entire game, leading by 10 in the opening minutes and holding Maryland to 24 points in the first half, matching its lowest 20 minutes of the season.

Even when the Terps tied it at 32 early in the second half, the Spartans responded with a 15-2 run. Maryland seemed to be out of answers, especially when Blake stole the ball at the top of the key and coasted in for an uncontested basket -- but jammed it into the outside of the rim.

Then, trailing 52-39 with 8:07 left, the Terps made their move again, befitting a senior class that was 13-2 in tournament games.

Using a full-court press against a Spartans squad lacking a true point guard, Maryland scored 16 of the game's next 18 points to go ahead 55-54 on a layup by Blake.

Friday, March 28, 2003
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"That's why they are defending champions," MSU coach Tom Izzo said. "I think they smelled blood and went after it, and we just didn't handle that very well."

Tahj Holden made one of two free throws with 1:30 left to put the Terps up 58-56.

Then Holden was caught flat-footed on the other end when the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Davis went flying at the rim for a two-handed jam that knotted the game at 56.

"I took some balls up kind of weak early on, so I knew if it was going to be a time to take it up and dunk it, it was going to be that time," Davis said.

Maryland's Jamar Smith missed from inside the lane and Michigan State called a timeout with 16.5 seconds left.

The play wasn't supposed to go to Davis, but when he got it on the baseline he knew what to do. He went to his left toward the basket, leaned around his defender and popped his shot off the backboard and into the basket for the lead with 4.7 seconds left.

The entire green-clad section behind the Spartans' bench leaped with joy. Among the faces in that crowd were Magic Johnson, former Michigan State stars and current San Antonio Spurs Steve Smith and Kevin Willis and former coach Jud Heathcoate.

Nicholas scored a game-high 18 points, but was 1-of-7 on 3-pointers. Blake was 1-of-5 and the entire team went 2-of-16.

Blake had 11 points and five steals, but only three assists. He also had five turnovers. He ends his career with the fifth-most assists in NCAA history.

MSU's Alan Anderson and Maurice Ager each scored 10, with Ager having seven during the early second-half spurt that seemed to have put the game away. Chris Hill had eight points and five assists.

Erazem Lorbek, who came in averaging team-bests with 14.5 points and six rebounds in the tournament, fouled out with only five points and one rebound in 16 minutes for Michigan State.

Maryland lost freshman starter Nik Caner-Medley to a dislocated left ankle midway through the first half. After scoring 18 points over the first two tournament games, he went out before taking a shot.


 
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