MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- All was Wright for Arizona in the second half of its national semifinal contest against Michigan State.
Michael Wright emerged from a slump to score all 13 of his points during a dominating 20 minutes as Arizona advanced to the national title game with an 80-61 victory over the defending champion Spartans at the Metrodome.
The Wildcats (28-7) will play Duke on Monday night in their first NCAA Tournament championship game appearance since winning the 1997 title.
Wright, who went scoreless in the Midwest Region final against Illinois and could not dent the scoreboard in the first half on Saturday, had a hook in the lane 18 seconds into the second half to spark a 12-0 run.
"In the first half I kind of played lackadaisical and unaggressive," said Wright. "I had, like, zero points and one rebound. I just had to come out in the second half and establish myself. Offensively and defensively, it seemed like the team just came together." During the stretch, Michigan State committed six turnovers on seven possessions and found itself trailing, 46-30, after a steal and dunk by Richard Jefferson with 15 1/2 minutes remaining.
"We came out right away in the second half and got a number of stops in a row," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "Offensively, I thought we did a good job moving the ball. We hit the open shots. The game was won on the defensive end." Jefferson had 16 of his 17 points after the break and also grabbed eight rebounds for the Wildcats, who have won five straight NCAA Tournament games against No. 1 seeds and will take an 11-game winning streak into Monday's title game.
Arizona, the nation's preseason No. 1 team, was seeded second in the Midwest Region but knocked off top-seeded Illinois to reach the Final Four. When they won the 1997 national crown, the Wildcats defeated No. 1s Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky.
The Spartans (28-5) were given a free point as Charlie Bell made a technical free throw after Jefferson was called for hanging on the rim following a dunk, but Gilbert Arenas contributed another steal and dunk for a 17-point Arizona advantage.
"This is the way we play defense," said Arizona center Loren Woods. "We have a lot of athletes on the perimeter. They were just getting steal after steal and they were getting easy layups. A lot of our shots in the second half were easy layups and dunks." Wright, who added a rebound and score earlier in the half, had two of the Wildcats' next three baskets -- the other was a 3-pointer by Jefferson from the right side -- as the lead ballooned to 55-35 with 13:13 to play.
"I think we did a good job in the second half of getting the passing lanes and things like that to get some steals," Wright said. "It just set the tone for the game." Making its third straight Final Four appearance, Michigan State responded with a 10-0 burst featuring eight points by senior Andre Hutson, one of only three players to start on four Big Ten Conference regular-season championship teams.
"First, I'd like to give a lot of credit to Arizona," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. "I thought they played really well. They played hard. They played good defense. They got their fast break going off of turnovers." Hutson's layup with 10:03 to go halved the 20-point deficit and a three-point play by freshman Zach Randolph got the Spartans as close as they would get, 57-48, with 9 1/2 minutes left.
"They came out with it and made a couple of shots," said Randolph. "They ran the score up so quick. I think a couple of our players got their heads down and they just kept running the score up. They were making steals and scoring on every turnover." Wright's three-point play ignited a 13-4 spurt that all but sealed the outcome. Jefferson had a steal and dunk during the run and Gardner added a steal that led to an acrobatic three-point play as he was fouled while throwing in a shot from the right side of the lane.
Hutson scored 18 of his season-high 20 points in the second half for the Spartans, who faced their largest deficit of the NCAA Tournament when Arizona jumped to a 5-0 lead on a three-point play by Woods and Gardner's layup on the break.
Five points, however, represented the largest margin of a tight first half. Randolph and fellow freshman Marcus Taylor kept the Spartans within reach by combining for 15 points in the opening 20 minutes.
Arizona took a 32-30 advantage to the locker room before taking control with a 16-1 run.
All five Arizona starters scored in double figures. Gardner led the way with 21 points, backcourt mate Arenas added 12 and the 7-1 Woods contributed 11 as the Wildcats shot 50 percent (30-of-60) from the field, the first team to accomplish that feat against Michigan State this season.
Randolph had 12 points and Taylor and David Thomas added eight apiece for the Spartans, who connected on 41 percent (25-of-61) of their shots while going 2-of-14 from 3-point range.
Arizona was 7-of-15 from beyond the arc and outscored the Spartans at the foul line, 13-9.
"We knew that it was going to come down to the boards and turnovers," said Olson. "We honestly felt that we shot the basketball better than they did. So as long as we didn't give them so many second and third efforts ..." The Wildcats improved to 4-0 all-time against Michigan State.