Spartan Cagers Win Thriller Over Minnesota
February 13, 1999
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - For 33 minutes Saturday night, No. 22 Minnesota was the desperate team, badly needing a victory against No. 5 Michigan State to bolster its chances of getting into the NCAA tournament.
For the final seven minutes, it was the Spartans who played desperately, and it paid off with their school-record 11th straight Big Ten victory.
Mateen Cleaves drove the length of the court and hit a driving layup with 1.2 seconds left, capping Michigan State's rally from a 10-point deficit for an 84-82 win that stunned the Golden Gophers.
"I think Minnesota should have won this game," said Morris Peterson, who had 10 of his 20 points during Michigan State's comeback. "But we found some way down the stretch to pull it out."
Big Ten scoring leader Quincy Lewis scored 29 points for Minnesota (14-8, 5-7 Big Ten), which has lost three straight and four of five. However, the Spartans (22-4, 11-1) held Lewis to just two free throws in the final 9:50, and twice stripped the ball from him to set up baskets in the final minutes.
That included Antonio Smith's strip with 24 seconds left, one of several calls that drew boos from the crowd of 14,887. The officiating also led Minnesota coach Clem Haskins to cut short his postgame interview, but not before directing most of his brief comments at the referees.
"It's unfortunate you can't decide the game on the court," Haskins said. "... I can't say what's on my mind. If I do I won't be able to coach at Penn State (on Wednesday)."
Cleaves started Michigan State's comeback with a driving layup with 6:46 remaining, cutting Minnesota's lead to 73-65. Then Peterson took over, finishing a 15-6 run with six straight points to close the Spartans to 79-78 with 1:14 left.
Lewis missed a leaning jumper at the other end, drawing no call and a loud protests from the Minnesota bench despite contact with two Spartans. Cleaves then hit two free throws with 40 seconds left to give the Spartans an 80-79 lead, their first lead in nearly 15 minutes.
Smith knocked the ball away from Lewis at the other end, diving on the loose ball and calling a timeout. Charlie Bell then dunked on a fast break to make it 82-79 with 18 seconds left, but Terrance Simmons answered 10 seconds later with a 3-pointer, his only basket of the night, to tie it.
But Cleaves, last year's Big Ten Player of the Year, silenced them with his full-court drive. That gave Cleaves 23 points, his second-highest scoring game of the season, and his second game-winning shot in the last two weeks.
Cleaves beat Penn State with a basket with four-tenths of a second left Feb. 2.
"I just wanted to get to the basket," Cleaves said. "I wanted to leave no time left."
He didn't quite accomplish that, but he didn't give Minnesota a chance to get another shot off.
Last in the Big Ten in 3-pointers made and second-to-last in shooting percentage from that distance, the Spartans tied a school record with 12 3-pointers, all of which came in the game's first 25 minutes. Cleaves led the way in that department, too, hitting a season-high five on six attempts. Bell was 4-for-5.
"Our 3s kept us in the game until we could finally take Quincy's (shots) away," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. "He's as hard to defend as any player I've seen in this league in a long time, probably since we had Steve Smith."
The Spartans were 12-for-18 from beyond the arc and led 56-53 when Bell hit his fourth of the night five minutes into the second half.
But the Spartans made only two of their next 11 shots, missing all four 3-pointers, as the Gophers went on a 16-4 run.
As usual, Lewis led the way with nine points in the run, including two 3-pointers. But the Gophers couldn't hold on, which probably leaves them needing at least two victories in the conference tournament to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997, when they reached the Final Four.
The Gophers have only one home game in their final four regular-season games, and they are 0-for-the-road in the conference this season.
"I think we deserve an NCAA tournament bid, but to get there you have to win games," Haskins said. "If we can play a possible No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament the way we did tonight, then we should get a lot of consideration."
By RON LESKO
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