Spartans Fall to Connecticut in Regional Finals, 60-54
Michigan State's NCAA tournament run comes to an end in Elite 8.
March 30, 2014
NEW YORK (AP) - Gary Harris led the Spartans with 22 points, but Michigan State fell to Connecticut in the Regional Finals, 60-54.
Shabazz Napier scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half to lead UConn to victory.
Fourth-seeded Michigan State's seniors become the first four-year players recruited by Tom Izzo to fail to reach the Final Four.
"As the game got closer and closer to ending, it was on my mind a lot, every huddle," Adreian Payne said of the streak which was talked about a lot this weekend after the Spartans beat top-seeded Virginia to move within one victory of the Final Four. "And for us losing, and Keith and I not to make it is disappointing."
Payne had 13 points but the 6-foot-10 center spent most of the game away from the basket, finishing 3 of 10 from 3-point range.
"They definitely tried to force me out and to take jump shots," he said. " It was just, they did a great job in the post of sending backside help. So it was kind of hard to get the ball down low."
Izzo started his head coaching career at Michigan State with the 1995-96 season. He has taken the Spartans to the Final Four six times and they won it all in 2000.
"You know, that streak doesn't mean anything to me, as dumb as it sounds," Izzo said. "Sometimes you got lucky. There were teams that we went to a Final Four with that weren't as good as some teams we didn't.
"Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you know streaks are made to be broken. It wasn't going to go forever, but it is the players' team, not the coach's team. It's the coach's program but the players' team."
Kevin Ollie is in his second season at Connecticut and he already can appreciate what Izzo has done in his 18 seasons in East Lansing.
"With their streak of every senior's been to a Final Four, that's a great streak," he said. "Streaks are made to be broken sometimes. I'm glad UConn broke that streak tonight, but today I have the utmost respect for Michigan State and Tom Izzo, the job he's doing and what he continues to do."
The Huskies (30-8) rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to become the first No. 7 seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
"We were just too casual with the ball," said senior Keith Appling. "A lot of the turnovers came with not being focused enough to where the defender was and just making the pass and that came back to bite us on the rear end at the end of the game."