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Updated: Sunday, March 30, 2003 10:28 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL PREVIEW
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No. 7 Michigan St (22-12) vs No. 1 Texas (25-6)
MICHIGAN ST. SPARTANS
Michigan St. Spartans
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TEXAS LONGHORNS
Texas Longhorns
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SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Top-seeded Texas can earn its first trip to the Final Four since 1947 on Sunday afternoon when it faces No. 7 Michigan State in the South Region final.

Texas (25-6) is in a regional final for the first time since 1990, when it lost to Arkansas. The Longhorns blew a 14-point lead before hanging on for an 82-78 victory over Connecticut on Friday, giving coach Rick Barnes his first trip to a regional final.

Brandon Mouton scored a career-high 27 points and James Thomas added 13 and 15 rebounds for Texas, which survived foul trouble to T.J. Ford. The Longhorns' star point guard sat for a five-minute stretch in the second half, but returned to lead his team to a seventh win in eight games.

Ford finished with 13 points and nine assists and has 504 career assists. He made only 3-of-15 shots on Friday and a better shooting performance could be necessary to defeat Michigan State.

"I've known Rick for a long time and I know he focuses on rebounding and tough defense," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "We do have similar programs, but one thing I haven't had to deal with is preparing for T.J. Ford. That is one thing I haven't had to worry about in the Big Ten."

The Longhorns shot just 35 percent (24-of-69) on Friday, but held a commanding 52-41 edge on the glass. Thomas and freshman Brad Buckman will be asked to turn in similar numbers against the Spartans' beefy frontcourt.

Michigan State (22-12) advanced with a 60-58 victory over Maryland on Friday. The Spartans blew a 14-point lead with just under seven minutes remaining before holding on after a missed 3-pointer by the Terrapins' Steve Blake at the buzzer.

Freshman Paul Davis scored 13 points, including a driving basket with four seconds left that proved to be the winning points. Davis tied the game at 58 on a dunk with 58 seconds to go.

Alan Anderson and freshman Maurice Ager each scored 10 points to help make up for a rough shooting night from Chris Hill. Hill, the team's leading scorer at 13.8 points per game, managed just eight points on 5-of-14 shots.

This is Michigan State's fourth regional final in five years and it is seeking a fourth Final Four trip in the same span. Izzo has a 19-4 record in the NCAA Tournament.

The Spartans are 5-2 in regional finals, including a 3-0 mark under Izzo, who is 9-0 when given one day to prepare for an opponent in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State has won eight of its last nine games.

Texas posted an 81-74 victory on November 27, 1999 in the championship of the Puerto Rico Shootout on the only meeting between the teams. Michigan State went on to win the national championship.

The winner will face the East Region champion, Oklahoma or Syracuse, on April 5 in New Orleans.


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