Michigan State Stops Stanford To Advance To Final Four, 76-69
March 29, 2005
By CHUCK SCHOFFNER
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Make some room, Michigan State men. You've got company.
Liz Shimek and the Michigan State women also are going to the Final Four - a first for the program.
Shimek made a series of huge plays down the stretch, Lindsay Bowen made her only basket of the game at a critical time and the top-seeded Spartans beat No. 2 seed Stanford 76-69 in the Kansas City Regional final Tuesday night.
Michigan State (32-3) had never even made it past the second round in five previous NCAA tournament appearances, but the Spartans looked completely comfortable when they donned their championship caps, delighting a small but vocal band of supporters that included Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and her two teenage daughters.
"Well, I tell you, Michigan State is the best," coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "The people are amazing, the homegrown talent is very special. And we're so proud of our men's team - we're going too, baby! We're going too! I can't wait!"
The Spartans will play in the national semifinals in Indianapolis on Sunday night, meeting the winner of Tuesday's late game between Tennessee and Rutgers. The men will play North Carolina in St. Louis on Saturday.
Michigan State becomes the sixth school to send teams to both the men's and women's Final Four. Connecticut did it just last year and each team won the national title, the only time that has happened.
Now, Michigan State has a chance for the double. But booking that trip wasn't easy, even after the Spartans took a 13-point lead against the team that was ranked No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll.
Stanford (32-3) came back to tie the score three times, but never got the lead and its 23-game winning streak ended, denying the Cardinal a seventh Final Four trip.
"You dream about this moment and you dream about going to the NCAA Final Four and it hurts so much and you're so close," said Candice Wiggins, Stanford's brilliant freshman. "It's really hard, especially when you have a team like this. This is a special team."
Shimek scored 17 of her 24 points in the second half and grabbed 10 rebounds. When the Spartans needed something at the end, she was there - and so was Bowen.
With the score tied at 61, Michigan State's Rene Haynes made four free throws and sank a 3-pointer to put the Spartans up 68-61, which proved to be just enough of a cushion.
Stanford drew to 70-69 on Wiggins' three-point play with 43.6 seconds left. But Bowen, who had been 0-for-7, answered with her only basket of the game, a 15-footer with 27.1 seconds to go.
"As a shooter you have to stay with it," Bowen said. "I was looking for a shot all night long. I finally got it and I hit it."
When Stanford's Kelley Suminski missed a 3-point shot, Bowen was there for the rebound, producing a fast-break layup by Kelli Roehrig. And Bowen stole the ball at the end to make two final free throws.
"I wanted it," a tearful Suminski said of her shot from the top of the key. "I know I hadn't been shooting well the whole game and I thought that was my chance to redeem myself."
Haynie went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers and finished with 20 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Haynes scored 14 and Roehrig had 10, plus six assists and eight rebounds.
Wiggins led Stanford with 19, Brooke Smith scored 16 and Suminski 11.
Haynie, who had a triple-double on Sunday night, was named the regional MVP. She finished the two games with 33 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists.
"The leadership of Kristin was unbelievable," McCallie said. "I'm thrilled for her and the way she directed the team and just led, the courage in which she led. I sometimes questioned her shot selection, but not for more than half a second."
The Final Four trip continues the Spartans' steady progress under McCallie, who arrived from Maine in 2000 with a goal of putting Michigan State on the national map. In this breakout season, she certainly has succeeded.
"It is a great to show the whole country we are here to stay," Bowen said. "You don't count out Michigan State in any sport."
The Spartans have set a school record for victories - nine more than the old mark - and they'll take a school-record 16-game winning streak to Indianapolis. They were shaky in their first two NCAA tournament games and needed a last-second shot to escape Southern California in the second round, but they beat Vanderbilt in the regional semifinals with a strong second half and did the same in this one.
With the score tied at 28, Michigan State started the second half with a 17-5 run that showed off the Spartans at their balanced best. Haynie triggered the spurt with two straight 3-pointers, while Shimek made a jumper from the top of the key and a 3-pointer. When Roehrig sank two free throws with 11:09 remaining, the Spartans led 55-42.
But Stanford started getting the ball inside to Smith and roared back with a 15-2 run, tying it at 57 when Smith fed T'Nae Thiel for a jumper. Shimek's left-handed shot inside stopped the Cardinal's momentum and the score was tied twice more before Haynes put the Spartans ahead to stay with her two free throws.
The Spartans still needed some big plays after that and got them, including a Shimek's hook shot in the lane after Stanford had crept to 68-66.
The game proved to be as physical as expected, with big bodies jostling for position under the basket and guards bumping each other on the perimeter. Borchardt, slightly built at 5-feet-7, took the hardest blow when she ran into a screen by the 6-4 Roehrig and flopped to the floor.
But she shook it off and buried a 3 a little more than a minute later to give Stanford its first lead, 16-15 midway through the first half.
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