Spartans Escape Penn State, 70-68
February 2, 1999
By DAVID KINNEY
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - First, Mateen Cleaves won an argument with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. Then he won the game.
Cleaves dribbled in on a defender with a few seconds to play and hit a leaning 10-footer as the eighth-ranked Spartans escaped with a 70-68 victory over Penn State on Tuesday night.
He and Izzo debated about which offense to run out of a timeout with 12 seconds remaining and the game tied 68-68. Izzo wanted him to run a high post screen and hit the forward with a cross-court pass. Cleaves wanted to spread the offense and take the last shot himself.
"Like a good coach would do, I went with the player," Izzo explained. "He had the ball in his hands at the end, which is what we want, and he got the job done."
Cleaves said Izzo didn't take too much persuading - even though the junior guard had made only three of 11 shots to that point.
"I told him I didn't want to throw a cross-court pass because that was a little scary at the end of a game," he said. "And that was a shot I wanted to take. All I wanted to do was get in the middle, if I had a shot, take it, and if someone was open, get it to him."
Cleaves, who scored with .4 seconds left, had 14 points and five assists in the Spartans' eighth straight win, while Morris Peterson scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half.
Michigan State (19-4, 8-1) remained in first place in the Big Ten.
Calvin Booth had 18 points and eight rebounds, while Dan Earl added 12 points for Penn State (10-10, 2-8), which has lost seven of eight games - including four at home to ranked opponents by a total of 11 points. Penn State lost to No. 21 Indiana 98-95 in double overtime on Sunday.
"They're a very good basketball team that's just been unlucky a little bit," Izzo said.
To buck up the down-on-their-luck Lions, Penn State coach Jerry Dunn showed the players a tape of their close upset wins from last season.
"The key thing is for them to feel good about themselves," he said. "We've got to weather the storm."
Trailing 68-65 with a minute left, the Spartans misfired on two 3-pointers, but Andre Hutson grabbed the rebound on the second shot and found Cleaves for a 3-pointer at the top of the key to tie it.
Booth missed a shot at the other end, then Cleaves hit his game-winner.
"Calvin has really become more aggressive on both ends of the floor," Dunn said. "I thought he did a yeoman's job down the stretch. I'm sure he wanted that last one to go, but it didn't."
Hutson had 14 points and nine rebounds and Antonio Smith grabbed 11 rebounds for the Spartans, who had 21 offensive rebounds.
"We were getting a lot of second chances," Izzo said. "Unfortunately that's because we missed a lot of shots. But Smith is a warrior and Hutson - they're both very tough kids."
Michigan State had trouble finding its mark in the second half, and Penn State took a 68-65 lead with 2:05 remaining on Titus Ivory's 3-pointer.
"Our perimeter guys just seemed to lack some energy and we didn't do a good job of running the offense at time," said Izzo, who called the win "awfully lucky."
Peterson helped the Spartans build a 57-50 lead midway through the second half. He took it to the hoop once, stole the ball for another basket and dunked twice after nifty passes from Cleaves.
But Penn State went on a 7-0 run when Joe Crispin picked Charlie Bell and hit a layup on the fast break. Earl hit a 25-foot 3-pointer to tie it. Two minutes later, Ivory made two free throws and Penn State led for the first time, 61-59 with 5:38 left.
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