Gonzaga, Michigan State Play Another Basketball Classic
Nov. 17, 2009
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gonzaga University's basketball team got a major test in major college basketball Tuesday night at Breslin Center.
Although they lost the game to second-ranked Michigan State University 75-71, the Bulldogs definitely passed the test with flying colors.
On a night when Michigan State's winning streak at home against non-conference teams was in jeopardy, it was the Bulldogs who walked off the court with the respect of the 14,759 fans and a national television audience as part of ESPN's 24-hour Tip-off Marathon.
The Spartans took the lead for good with 3:02 to play when Durrell Summers hit a shot from the top of the key for a 68-67 advantage. It was Summers who two minutes earlier hit a fall-down jumper from 16 feet that found the net and pulled MSU to within 63-61 and helped keep the Spartan hopes of a comeback alive.
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few had nothing but praise, not only for his squad but for the Spartans and head coach Tom Izzo.
"There are a lot of positives we can take out of this," Few said. "If you come in to play Michigan State and play a Tom Izzo team, the first thing you have to do is compete, and our guys really competed. We battled and I thought we executed pretty darn well because we got the shots we wanted time and time again down the stretch. They (MSU) defended well, but I thought we executed well enough to get some great looks."
Two of the better looks came with the Bulldogs trailing 73-70 in the final 40 seconds. Steven Gray had a good look from the top of the key, Demetri Goodson grabbed the rebound and got it back to Gray for another shot that was rebounded by the Spartans. The Bulldogs were forced to foul but Draymond Green missed both free throws. Gray grabbed the rebound and Goodson drove the right baseline but was fouled, made one of the two free throws and Summers wrapped up the victory with two free throws as Gonzaga fouled in hopes of getting the ball back with a chance for the win or tie.
Summers finished with 21 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
"It was the kind of game we needed, especially this early in the year," Summers said.
The Spartans (2-0) won their 41st straight game at home against a non-conference team, extending a streak that started after a loss to Duke on Dec. 3, 2003.
"There's no question the crowd won that game for us," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "If you were down there, you could hear it."
Robert Sacre matched a career high with 17 points for the Bulldogs (1-1) despite playing just 19 minutes.
"He was really making a difference in there, then his minutes got limited because of the fouls," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "That hurt us."
Kalin Lucas made a layup with 39 seconds left to give Michigan State a three-point lead and finished with 19 points.
Raymar Morgan scored 16 off the bench despite playing on a sprained left ankle and injuring his right ankle in the first half.
"I am really proud of Ray," Izzo said.
Michigan State scored first, then trailed Gonzaga for much of the game.
The Bulldogs led by 13 midway through the first half and were ahead 35-30 at halftime.
They built another double-digit lead early in the second half, but were hurt by the 7-foot Sacre getting called for a third foul and 7-5 reserve Will Foster getting a fourth foul shortly after halftime.
Michigan State freshman Derrick Nix made a putback with 11:52 left in the game to put the home team ahead for the first time since the opening minute.
The Bulldogs, though, refused to wilt in the raucous Breslin Center despite having one of their youngest teams since becoming one of the nation's stronger programs.
"It's a terrific college basketball atmosphere," Few said. "Before Thanksgiving, it felt like a game that would clinch a championship game in a league with the energy. Michigan State made some great plays, like that 3-pointer from the top. I almost think (Summers) double-pumped it. Every time we play these guys it seems like a great battle. From a coaching standpoint you enjoy it because they are so well prepared. It's like a big chess match and you're having to change things on the fly because they are taking away options A, B, C and D. We tried to so dome things to take some things away from them. It's been a fun couple of battles we've had from them."
The teams played a triple overtime thriller in the 2005 EA Sports Maui Invitational, the Bulldog prevailing in that one 109-106.
Tuesday was Few's second trip to the Breslin Center.
"We played here (in 1997) when I was an assistant with Dan (Monson) and this place has really grown," he said.
Sacre made a shot midway through the second half to put Gonzaga ahead by seven and a fadeaway with 4:42 to go for a 65-61 lead.
"It's a big win for us because we didn't play real well," Izzo said. "Gonzaga took it to us for at least 30 minutes. I have a lot of respect for Mark and their program.
"They punched us in the mouth, picked us off the ground and punched us again early - and I thought we were ready to play," Izzo added.
Gonzaga, hoping to reload instead of rebuild, also faces a tough schedule with games against Wake Forest, Arizona or Wisconsin, Duke, Oklahoma and Illinois before starting West Coast Conference play.
Few said he had mixed emotions about Tuesday's game because the Bulldogs had a shot at pulling off an upset - which would've perhaps been one of the school's biggest wins in the regular season - but he went home proud.
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