Michigan State Wins Again, Digger Phelps Continues To Look Like a Fool
How long can one bitter old man hold a grudge?
Seriously Digger, when are you going to realize that 1979 was 30 years ago? You continue to let your anger at being beaten by Magic and Special K cloud your judgment. When you look at Michigan State, you don't see an elite basketball team.
You see a school that took down your precious Fighting Irish, and you can't handle the fact that they have been a consistent player in the national landscape under Tom Izzo.
Izzo let it be known that he was upset by the media, naming Phelps by name in a press conference after the Spartans beat Louisville. You can find the video here.
Let's see, won the Big Ten by four games, check. Led the league in scoring and field goal shooting, check. Led the nation in rebounding margin, check.
And still, most of the alleged experts didn't give Michigan State a chance.
Nevermind the fact that Goran Suton is a big enough outside threat to keep Hasheem Thabeet occupied. Never mind the fact that Travis Walton is the best on-ball defender that AJ Price has seen all season.
And nevermind the fact that the Spartans have a team that goes far deeper than UConn, presenting matchup and conditioning problems at every turn.
All of these factors were in place, and yet nobody expected Michigan State to win. UConn was expected to easily waltz into the title game. Most people had already penciled them in to face North Carolina.
Fools, didn't they learn from their mistakes in the Elite Eight? Nobody gave Michigan State a fighting chance against Louisville, and the Cardinals got throttled.
Now, Michigan State is left to play for a title after yet another win against a team in the RPI top 50. That makes 17 such victories this season.
This time, the Spartans didn't beat their vaunted Big East opponents with oppressive defense. No, quite the opposite. The Spartans outran the Huskies, which will no doubt come as a surprise to most of the country (though it shouldn't).
MSU's 22 points on the fast break wore out UConn, especially since Jim Calhoun only used seven players for most of the game. The Spartans? Eleven men saw significant action. This is why UConn was held to only ten points on the break.
It didn't help that Hasheem Thabeet was gasping for air at the end while the Spartans just kept running.
Despite the big advantage on the break, UConn kept it close, thanks to the assistance of the men in stripes. The Huskies enjoyed a 13-shot advantage at the free throw line and were whistled for far fewer fouls despite playing with just as much of a physical edge as the Spartans.
Think back to the first half. Thabeet muscles Travis Walton down to the floor, and held him there with his free arm for an extra couple of seconds. Hey, it's not illegal if you don't get caught, right?
The Spartans seemed prepared for this as well. Louisville was in the bonus for most of the second half in the Elite Eight, and MSU pulled away by being efficient at the offensive end and not giving up anything extra on the defensive end.
It was a tight game at the half, just like the MSU-Louisville matchup. UConn came out and landed the first punch in the second half, just like Louisville did. And just like last weekend, MSU absorbed the hit and came back to take control.
Raymar Morgan finally woke up from his long slumber, scoring 18 huge points. Freshman Korie Lucious chipped in with 11 points in just nine minutes of play. Draymond Green had eight points and made some great hustle plays that won't show up in the box score.
And then we have Durrell Summers, who resembles a more athletic Morris Peterson.
Summers has been one of the best players for the Spartans this season, and tonight was no exception.
His outstanding leaping ability helped him grab six rebounds, three on the offensive glass. His confidence in his outside shot helped spark Michigan State in both this round and the last. Ten points from the athletic sophomore helped propel Michigan State to victory.
And I haven't even mentioned his highlight reel dunk yet.
With just under six minutes left, Summers drove into the lane. As he rose towards the rim, Stanley Robinson rose to block the shot. Robinson got a hand on the ball, but Summers was too strong and slammed the ball home for a 10-point lead.
The crowd whipped themselves into a frenzy and that demoralizing blow seemed to end the Huskies' night.
So there you have it. Michigan State has done it with defense, offense and everything in between this March. They've got one game left and look poised to accomplish something special.
Senior guard Travis Walton said on Senior Day that this team wasn't done hanging banners. With 40 minutes left in the season, that could prove to be prophetic.
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