March 14, 1998By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - It took an impressive performance from the Big Ten player of the year and some solid defense from Michigan State for it to advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament and end the best season in Princeton's history.
The fourth-seeded Spartans (22-7) rode the 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists of sophomore guard Mateen Cleaves to a 63-56 victory over the fifth-seeded Tigers (27-2) on Saturday in the East Regional.
The loss snapped Princeton's 20-game winning streak, the best in school history and the longest in the nation, and it came on a day when the Tigers had one of their worst shooting games of the season.
After a Michigan State turnover, a side jumper by James Mastaglio had Princeton even at 54-54 with 2:01 to play. The Spartans scored the next seven points - four free throws by Morris Peterson surrounding a 3 by Cleaves - and the Spartans were on their way to the third round.
Michigan State, the Big Ten regular-season co-champions, will play top-seeded and top-ranked North Carolina on Thursday in the regional semifinals at Greensboro, N.C. The Tar Heels advanced with a 93-83 overtime victory over North Carolina Charlotte on Saturday.
Both of Michigan State's NCAA tournament wins came through its defense as it held Eastern Michigan to 2-of-19 shooting from 3-point range in the opening round and then held Princeton to 7-of-28, the Tigers' third-worst effort of the season from beyond the arc. Princeton shot 39.5 percent on 3s this season and were at 50 percent overall, but shot just 20-for-50 (40 percent) on Saturday.
Steve Goodrich led Princeton with 18 points, while Brian Earl had 15 and Gabe Lewullis 13.
Michigan State opened the game with a 10-0 run, but Princeton, despite the poor shooting throughout, stayed close and trailed 33-31 at halftime. The Spartans led 53-46 with 3:45 left on two free throws by Cleaves, but the Tigers, who had missed 19 of their first 24 3-point attempts, suddenly found the range and consecutive 3s by Earl and Goodrich had them within 54-52 with 2:55 left.
It will be Michigan State's sixth appearance in the round of 16 and its first since 1990 when it lost to Georgia Tech in the third round.
Princeton was trying to become the first Ivy League team to reach the round
of 16 since Penn in 1979 and was trying to get there for the first time since
1965 when it advanced to the Final Four.