AUSTIN, Texas (Ticker) -- Alan Anderson is thankful for second chances.
Anderson overcame his struggles from the line in the Big Ten tournament to make four free throws in the final 12 seconds of the second overtime as fifth-seeded Michigan State outlasted second seed Kentucky, 94-88, in the final of the Austin Region.
The Spartans (26-6) advance to the Final Four for the first time in four years and the fourth time in 10 seasons under coach Tom Izzo. They will face North Carolina in the national semifinals on Saturday.
After Louisville and Illinois both needed an extra period to advance to St. Louis on Saturday, this became the third regional final that needed to be decided in overtime, an NCAA record. The last time two regional finals went to overtime was in 1992, highlighted by Duke's dramatic win over Kentucky behind Christian Laettner's last-second shot.
With the win, Izzo moved past Duke's Mike Krzyzewski to become the leader among active coaches with a 79.3 winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament at 23-6. After his loss to Michigan State in the semifinals here, Krzyzewski fell to 71.1 percent (27-11).
"The Duke game was a big high for us, obviously," Spartans center Paul Davis said. "We didn't want to have it be our so-called championship. We wanted to come here and try to get to the Final Four."
Anderson, a 90-percent free-throw shooter who missed a pair from the stripe in the closing seconds of a 71-69 loss to Iowa in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tourney on March 11, made two from the line with 12 seconds left to give his team a 90-86 advantage.
He credits coach Izzo's actions after the NCAA selection show where he smashed the tapes of the Iowa game and other tapes of subpar moments with a sledgehammer.
"Coach smashed those tapes," Anderson said. "It jumped right out of me. It was done by then. We said it was going to be a new season. It was either put up or shut up, pretty much."
After the Wildcats' Rajon Rondo went the length of the court for a layup with 7.5 seconds left, Anderson jumped high over Ravi Moss on the ensuing inbounds play and was fouled. He calmly sank two more shots from the stripe with 7.1 seconds to play to seal the win.
He finished 6-of-6 from the line to help Michigan State avoid joining Arizona and West Virginia as teams that surrendered sizeable leads in the closing minutes of regulation before being eliminated in a regional final.
The Spartans had a 70-62 lead with 5:20 to play before the Wildcats closed regulation with a 13-5 run that was capped by an improbable 3-pointer by Patrick Sparks.
After Sparks missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that would have tied the game at 73-73 with 26 seconds remaining, he had a chance to redeem himself with 12 seconds left.
With Kentucky (28-6) trailing, 75-72, Sparks had a 3-point attempt partially blocked, but Kelenna Azubuike corralled the offensive rebound and went to the right wing to shoot from the arc with four seconds left. His shot missed but bounced off the front of the rim to Sparks, who grabbed the ball, took a bump from Kelvin Torbert and threw up a questionable 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left that bounced on the rim four times before falling through.
"It was crazy. It was such a swing of emotion from being down and out to coming back and hitting a shot like that," Sparks said. "I give a lot of credit to coach (Tubby) Smith in having the confidence to put me back in there and give me that opportunity to make a play."
The officials reviewed the play for about five minutes before agreeing that Sparks' shot was behind the arc.
"I was praying and hoping from the angle they were seeing it from it was a clear-cut 3-pointer," Hayes said. "You want it to end like that. I just knew if they were to call it a three, we would pull away in the first overtime."
The Wildcats clearly had the advantage in the opening moments of overtime, scoring the first four points, but the Spartans grabbed five offensive rebounds on one possession before Shannon Brown made a 3-pointer with 3:28 remaining.
"I was concerned that maybe the wind was out of our sail," Izzo said. "What a great way to do it (change momentum) when you get offensive rebounds. Then you bury a three at the end. That gave us an emotional lift."
Michigan State then tied the score at 81-81 on a free throw by Maurice Ager with 63 seconds left. With the score still tied, Kentucky had a chance to win with 25 seconds remaining but Rondo, the Wildcats' freshman point guard, took too long to get the offense initiated and Azubuike failed to get a shot off before the horn sounded.
"I think since I got it I should have tried shooting right away," Azubuike said. "I tried to create some space. By the time I did, the time ran out. I probably should have just shot it right when I got it."
In the second overtime, the Wildcats struggled to get a solid shot in their first three possessions as the Spartans went ahead, 86-81, on a follow dunk by Davis with 2:10 to play.
"We were running the play and that was successful for us during that time," Kentucky forward Chuck Hayes said. "They were able to adjust and they made the adjustments that they had to do defend it. We were looking for answers."
Two baskets by Hayes cut Kentucky's deficit to 88-86 with 29 seconds left before Anderson and Torbert combined to sink six free throws down the stretch.
Shannon Brown scored 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting with five 3-pointers for Michigan State, which shot 56 percent (19-of-34) with seven baskets from behind the arc after halftime to advance.
"We just couldn't stop them," Smith said. "You get in that shooting zone sometimes and we were having defensive breakdowns. A lot of it has to do with experience and being able to make those plays."
Ager scored 21 points, Davis chipped in 15 and 11 rebounds and Anderson scored 13 for the Spartans, who improved to 14-1 this season when four players reach double figures.
Randolph Morris scored 20 points, Hayes 16 in his collegiate finale and Sparks added 15 on five 3-pointers for Kentucky, which fell to 19-1 this season when Sparks makes two or more shots from the arc.
The Wildcats faced some early adversity when Rondo was whistled for his second foul with 17:12 remaining, but Sparks scored 12 points with four 3-pointers to spark Kentucky to a 37-33 halftime lead.
In the second half, Michigan State scored on its first six possessions to take a 47-46 lead on a jumper by Davis with 16:41 to play. Chris Hill added his first 3-pointer of the tournament three minutes later for a 51-50 edge. He had missed his previous 14.