NCAA hoops: Michigan State returns to Final Four — again
AP National Writer
ST. LOUIS — Don't bet against Tom Izzo and Michigan State this time of year.
Raymar Morgan's free throw with less than 2 seconds left gave the Spartans a 70-69 victory over Tennessee in the Midwest Regional final today, sending Michigan State to its sixth Final Four in 12 years and second in a row.
No team in the country — not North Carolina, not Kentucky, not UCLA — has done it better during that span. And all six trips have come under Izzo, the hard-nosed coach who preaches defense, rebounding and physical play.
Oh, and how's this for some symmetry? This happens to be the 10th anniversary of the "Flintstones," the team that gave Michigan State its second national title.
The Spartans, last year's national runner-up, will be looking for title No. 3 next weekend in Indianapolis. They play Butler, sure to be the hometown favorite, in the semifinals Saturday night.
The fifth-seeded Spartans (28-8) led by as many as eight in the second half, but Brian Williams pulled Tennessee within 69-68 on a putback with 2:10 left. Korie Lucious, who took over as point guard after 2009 Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas ruptured his Achilles' tendon last weekend, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 29 seconds left and Scotty Hopson got the rebound.
Hopson was fouled at the other end, and made the first. But after a Michigan State timeout, he missed the second and Lucious — generously listed at 5-foot-11 — ended up with the rebound.
Draymond Green fed the ball inside to Morgan, who got hacked by J.P. Prince with 1.8 seconds left. Morgan made the first and, after timeouts by both teams, missed the second — on purpose. Williams came up with the rebound but Prince fumbled his reception of the inbounds pass and had to heave up a prayer just before the buzzer.
It wasn't even close, and the Michigan State players started celebrating. Several of the Volunteers, meanwhile, playing in their first regional final and hoping to extend their run by one more game, dropped to the floor.
Wayne Chism, playing his last game for Tennessee, led four Vols in double figures with 13 points. Prince had 12 on 5-of-5 shooting, and Williams scored 11.