'Horns' super subs shoot down Michigan StatePosted: Sunday March 30, 2003 11:40 PM
Updated: Sunday March 30, 2003 11:54 PM
By Mike Finger, Special to SI.com
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- All season long, coaches in the Big 12 and beyond have tried to come up with a way to deal with Texas' depth.
Some have tried to slow the game down. Others have tried to speed it up. There even have been a few who thought junk defenses, such as the "box and one" or "triangle and two," were the answer.
But Michigan State coach Tom Izzo -- always eager to keep things simple -- gave his players a different sort of scouting report before they played the Longhorns in the South Regional finals on Sunday.
"We told them anybody with a '3' on their jersey was a shooter," Izzo said.
But the trouble with that "defend-by-numbers" approach? Izzo's Spartans couldn't stay between the lines.
With super subs Brian Boddicker and Sydmill Harris -- Nos. 33 and 13, respectively, in your game program -- roaming free on the perimeter, the Longhorns used a torrid shooting performance to wrap up an 85-76 victory and a trip to the Final Four.
Despite Izzo's warning to his team, Boddicker and Harris benefited from open look after open look on their way to combining for 27 points and five 3-pointers. That duo's accuracy -- 5-of-10 from behind the arc and 10-of-16 overall -- was especially pivotal on a night when Naismith Award-winning point guard T.J. Ford didn't have his best shooting touch.
"With T.J.'s penetration, some teams are just so worried about getting back on defense that sometimes I can get lost in transition," Boddicker said. "One of those times, I got lost and got a wide-open look. It was good that me and Syd could come in and do that for our team."
Ford wound up with his usual impressive numbers -- 19 points, 10 assists and only two turnovers -- but it was Boddicker and Harris who ensured that Texas would make the national semifinals for the first time since 1947 -- before the term "Final Four" was even around.
As dominant as Ford can be, the Longhorns' offense improves immensely when perimeter shots are falling. Without that threat, most defenses have been willing to collapse inside and clog the lane to prevent Ford's penetration.
Harris and Boddicker never let the Spartans do that on Sunday. Harris, a native of the Netherlands who is fluent in five languages, scored eight points during a two-minute, five-second span to give Texas the lead for good in the first half, and Boddicker quelled any thoughts of an MSU comeback with a big baseline jumper in the final two minutes.
And even more important, their play prevented the Spartans from taking advantage when the Texas starters sat on the bench.
"It always helps when you have a guy who can light it up off the bench," Izzo said. "Sometimes when subs come in, you take a breath. You can't take a breath against those guys."
Mike Finger covers college basketball for the San Antonio Express-News. He is a regular contributor to SI.com.