Zags Exit Tourney With Loss To Defending Champs, 77-62

March 23, 2001

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By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA - Michigan State is one victory away from another Final Four. Gonzaga will have to be content with another memorable run in the NCAA tournament.

Charlie Bell scored 21 points for the defending national champion Spartans, who overpowered the tiny Zags 77-62 Friday night in the South Regional semifinals.

"I think we just constantly kept different bodies on him," explained Spartans senior forward Andre Hudson on how MSU worked to wear down Casey Clavary. "We just kept sending bodies on him and I think he started to wear down."

Top-seeded Michigan State (27-4) was simply too big, too quick and too deep for No. 12 Gonzaga (26-7), which led 44-41 with just under 16 minutes remaining.

When the Spartans turned up the defensive pressure, Gonzaga had trouble even finding the rim. The Bulldogs went 8:02 without a field goal, throwing up at least three airballs during that span and missing badly several other times.

We are not used to struggling on offense, we usually never have trouble scoring, but tonight, we didn't execute and had trouble answering their runs," said Calvary.

Michigan State, which kept on winning after losing stars Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson from its title team, got another balanced effort.

Andre Hutson had 19 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-3 Bell also sneaked inside the bigger players to grab 10 rebounds. Jason Richardson had 12 points and seven rebounds. Zach Randolph added 10 points.

Gonzaga's roster doesn't run as deep, and Michigan State knew how to take advantage of a tiring team. The Spartans put together a 15-3 run for a 57-46 lead with nine minutes to go.

Michigan State, which came in as the nation's dominant rebounding team, flexed its muscle for a commanding 49-29 advantage on the boards. The Spartans also had eight blocks and continually harassed the Bulldogs into ill-timed shots.

 

 

They are easily the most physical team we've ever played and we've played some physical teams through the years," Gonzaga coach Mark Few commented on MSU's size advantage. "Two that come to mind in the tournament the last two years are Connecticut the year they won the thing and Purdue last year. The thing about Michigan state is that they are physical at both ends of the court and so athletic."

Michigan State advanced to meet No. 11 Temple which easily moved past No. 7 Penn State 84-72. The winner of Sunday's game moves on to the Final Four.

Gonzaga came in as the little team that could, reaching the round of 16 for the third straight season even though the Bulldogs are continually kept down by the NCAA selection committee.

They kept it close against the Spartans throughout the first half, grabbing their first lead, 25-24, on Mark Spink's 19-foot jumper with six minutes left in the half.

Michigan State scored the final five points of the period for a 37-32 lead at the break, but Gonzaga came out strong.

Dan Dickau, who was held to 1-of-5 shooting in the first half, popped in two quick 3-pointers to push the Zags back to the lead. They had the Georgia Dome crowd roaring with crisp passing, leading to a layup for Spink and a dunk by Zach Gourde.

Michigan State responded by getting more active in the passing lanes, forcing Gonzaga to go back outside. The Bulldogs couldn't respond, shooting only 22-of-58 (38 percent) from the field.

Dickau wound up with 19 points but was only 6-of-17 from the field. Casey Calvary had 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting.

When it was over, Gonzaga had one more classy gesture before leaving the court, trotting over as a team and clapping toward their section of fans.

"This has been the best four years of my life, everyone is like family," said Calvary of his final game in a Zags uniform. "I will continue to support the program and try to be like a big brother to the team. I have had a great run at Gonzaga, and will always cherish it."

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