Spartans pull a stunner to reach NCAA final

Spartans pull a stunner to reach NCAA final

April 5th, 2009 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - College

DETROIT - Here came Durrell Summers, all six-feet-four of him. This was his home, his fans, their dream. So the Michigan State sophomore substitute couldn't let them down.

Not on this massive stage, especially not with the entire state of Michigan so desperate for something good to momentarily wash away its lost jobs, lost homes, lost hope.

So he did what anyone looking to leave his mark on a Final Four semifinal game before the hometown folks does. He threw down one of those dunks that will be replayed for decades to come every time March Madness returns.

"I caught (Stanley) Robinson on his heels," Summers said of his Connecticut opponent, whose own ability to fly is rather envied. "I decided to slam it as hard as I could. He got a little piece of it, I think. But it went through."

And when it did the Spartans led the haughty Huskies 66-56 with 5:51 to go. UConn rallied to within three with 67 seconds to play. But Huskies coach Jim Calhoun's third Final Four team in 11 years never drew closer. Michigan State won 82-73.

The Spartans next play Monday night in the national championship game against the North Carolina-Villanova winner. If Ford Field's 72,456 patrons are as overwhelmingly behind State as they were on Saturday, either team could have its hands full against the 31-6 Spartans.

"The crowd, oh, the crowd," Summers kept saying. "It wasn't just loud. It was echo loud. And they really got into it after that dunk. You could kind of see (UConn's) heads kind of droop after that."

Added teammate Raymar Morgan, who scored 18 points, nine rebounds and five steals, "The momentum was on our side after that."

It wasn't only Summers and Morgan who hurt the Huskies, though Summers' 10 points off the bench were a huge reason the Spartans reserves outscored their UConn counterparts 33-7.

"Overall, the wealth of bench talent, 33-7, probably ends up being the difference," said Calhoun. "When you can go 33 points off your bench, you're probably a very, very deep team because the guys who start for them are very good."

Indeed, starting guard Kalin Lucas scored 21 and handed out five assists. Defensive specialist Travis Walton harassed UConn guard A.J. Price into 15 missed shots in 20 attempts. Morgan did his damage despite a clear plastic mask protecting his broken nose.

"We did what we like to do," said Lucas. "We ran and we rebounded."

And Connecticut, despite leading for a good chunk of the first half, seemed powerless to stop either, perhaps because there is something magical going on here, something to momentarily lift a troubled state out of the nation's worst economic situation.

"Everybody's having hard times," said Walton. "Rich people are losing their money. Poor people ain't getting no money. It's all tough."

Added Lucas, who has always previously listed his hometown as Sterling Heights, Mich., but changed it to Detroit for this game: "My granny lives two minutes from (Ford Field). So today, I just wanted to represent Detroit."

And with all that against them, even the 17 points and two blocked shots that 7-foot-3 UConn center Hasheem Thabeet scored couldn't stop the Spartans. Nor Robinson's sensational 15 points and 13 rebounds. Nor 13 more from forward Jeff Adrien.

Not this night. Not with freshman guard Korie Lucious hitting three luscious triples off the bench in the opening half on his way to 11 first-half points. Not with the Spartans matching the skyscraper Huskies on the glass with 42 boards each.

Not with all that Spartan green making up the largest Final Four crowd ever.

"I've never seen nothing like it," said Summers. "There was green everywhere. Everywhere!"

Last summer saw Summers walk into a tattoo parlor and get "No Grind" inked into the inside of his left forearm. On his inner right forearm he added the words, "No Shine."

Said the player with the widest of grins, "Because if there's no grind, there's no shine."

On Saturday night, the grinding Spartans shined. It was Summers time and the living was easy for at least one more Michigan night.

"And I really believe," said winning coach Tom Izzo, "that the best is yet to come."


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