Granger Was Spartans' Ace In The Hole
April 3, 2000
By HARRY ATKINS
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Most everyone knew Michigan State had the Flintstones. Now the basketball world knows about A.J. Granger, too.
Granger matched his career-high with 19 points to help the Spartans beat Florida 89-76 on Monday night for their first NCAA title since 1979.
There were other unsung heroes for the Spartans, of course.
During a stretch of about four minutes when Cleaves was out getting his right ankle tapped after a hard fall early in the second half, Bell who held the Spartans together.
If the Spartans, leading by six points at the time, were going to fold, this might have been the time. But they had been in this situation before - for the first two months of the season.
Bell played point guard for the Spartans' first 13 games while Cleaves recovered from a stress fracture in that right foot. He did it again in the biggest game of his life and Michigan State had increased its lead to nine points by the time Cleaves limped back onto the court.
But it was Granger, the senior forward from Findlay, Ohio, who gave the Spartans an unexpected offensive push - something they felt would be vital against Florida's in-your-face defense.
Every time the Gators collapsed on Peterson, Cleaves and Andre Hutson, it was Granger who shredded their strategy. He hit 3-pointers, drove the baseline for leaners in the paint, and battled underneath for rebounds.
Every time it seemed like the Gators had come up with a stop, it seemed Granger would get the ball and somehow hit a basket.
Granger has been quietly outstanding during this entire tournament run. He averaged 9.3 points during the regular season, but put his game on another level once the tournament started. Granger also scored 19 against Syracuse and 18 against Iowa in the Midwest Regionals.
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