Michigan State outlasts Tshiebwe, No. 4 Kentucky in 2OT

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Michigan State found a way to finish.

The search continues for No. 4 Kentucky – even with consensus national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe back in action.

Malik Hall forced two extra periods with dunks off inbounds plays, Mady Sissoko delivered two game-changing slams late in the second overtime, and Michigan State rallied to beat No. 4 Kentucky 86-77 on Tuesday night.

“I just saw (coach) Tom (Izzo) in the hallway and I said you were more prepared to finish than we were,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.

The Spartans (2-1) were ready thanks in part to what they endured on Friday, when they lost by one point to No. 2 Gonzaga on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

But they also got some help when Oscar Tshiebwe, last season’s consensus national player of the year, fouled out late in the first overtime after scoring 22 points and pulling down 18 rebounds in his season debut for the Wildcats (2-1).

Joey Hauser scored 23 points, Hall had 20 and Sissoko had a career-high 16 points with eight rebounds for the Spartans, who spent most of the second half playing catch-up.

Sissoko changed the tenor of the game with his tiebreaking alley-oop slam with 1:45 left in the second OT.

“There’s nothing better than seeing Mady going up for a lob because you know it’s going to be a dunk,” Hauser said.

And with Tshiebwe on the bench, Michigan State closed it out by outscoring Kentucky 13-1, the final blow coming on another dunk by Sissoko in the final minute.

“Yeah, I set them up. I said, `Let’s just go dunk the the damn ball,” Izzo said sarcastically. “I like dunks probably because I never could.”

Kentucky led 62-60 near the end of regulation when Tshiebwe lost Hall on an inbound pass. Hall took advantage by dunking with 3.7 seconds left.

“Give them credit, they did what they had to do,” Calipari said. “But the (first) out-of-bounds play, that’s something we never do. We just left him.”

It happened again in the first overtime when Hall broke free as the Spartans moved the ball into the front court. He drove in for the dunk to tie it 71-71 with 1.4 seconds left.

After Cason Wallace’s 3-pointer early in the second overtime gave Kentucky a 76-73 lead, the Spartans locked down Kentucky’s shooters and pulled away.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Izzo’s teams always seem to finish stronger than they start and if these Spartans do that again this season, they could be scary. Despite poor early shooting, they overcome a sluggish start to knock off a top-five team.

Kentucky: The Wildcats returned to the venue from their last loss, a first-round NCAA Tournament defeat to Saint Peter’s in March, and left with the same result. Yes, they’re big, long, athletic and defend well. But they’ll need to develop a closing punch.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Michigan State: The Spartans were unranked in the preseason AP Top 25 and again this week. They’ll likely move into the poll after two strong showings against top-five foes.

Kentucky: Calipari’s squad didn’t need Tshiebwe last week. He missed the first two games while recovering from a knee procedure. But when he’s on the floor, the Wildcats are clearly one of the nation’s top teams. They may slide a few spots after this loss but will have a chance to recover – if they can beat No. 2 Gonzaga on the road this weekend.

HE’S BACK

Dick Vitale returned to ESPN’s broadcast Tuesday night following his battle against cancer. Vitale missed most of last season when his signature voice was impaired by lymphoma and melanoma.

He sat at midcourt, in front of Wildcats fans, and opened the broadcast by thanking everyone who sent text messages and notes of support and acknowledged the famous words of his late friend Jim Valvano – “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up” – inspired him to persevere.

HE SAID IT

“That’s a really good team and that will be a great team,” Izzo said. “So all you Kentucky fans, don’t jump off the ship. I told John, it’s illegal to have that many seniors at Kentucky.”

UP NEXT

Michigan State: Hosts Villanova on Friday.

Kentucky: Hosts South Carolina State on Thursday.

Gonzaga, Michigan State to play on carrier deck

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SAN DIEGO — They’re going to try to play college basketball on an aircraft carrier again, and nautical veteran Tom Izzo and Michigan State will get a return trip to San Diego Bay to face Gonzaga on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on Veteran’s Day.

The game will be shown in prime time on Nov. 11 as part of ESPN’s Armed Forces Classic from the flat top moored at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, across the bay from downtown San Diego. The Abraham Lincoln is on deployment and is due back in port later this summer.

Izzo’s Spartans lost to No. 1 North Carolina 67-55 on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11, 2011, in the first college basketball game on an active carrier. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama watched from courtside. The Carl Vinson conducted Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in a raid ordered by Obama six months earlier.

This will be the first aircraft carrier game since 2012, when only two of four games scheduled that fall were played, including one in San Diego that had to be pushed back two days because of rain rather than moving it indoors.

While the 2011 Carrier Classic was played in a spectacular setting, it ended less than an hour before rain drenched the court, just one of the hazards organizers face in staging carrier hoops games. Organizers said there would be a backup court on the hangar deck as a contingency, but that court was never set up.

Izzo welcomed the chance to play in another carrier game.

“The experience we had in 2011 when we played North Carolina on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson was one of the most humbling experiences of my career,” Izzo said in a statement. “Obviously, we wanted to win and any game against a program like that is very special, but to me, the game was about so much more than just a win or a loss.

“This opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier in front of men and women who serve in the military and are willing to put their lives on the line is an experience that is going to mean something to the young men who will play in the game for a long, long time,” Izzo added. “I said it last time and I’ll say it again, we’re going to play one of the best teams in the country and we’re going to be hosted by the No. 1 team in the world.”

Gonzaga coach Mark Few echoed Izzo’s thoughts.

“This is a special opportunity for our program to support those who fight for our country in our own small way. We’re excited to face an incredible program in Michigan State and a great colleague in Coach Izzo. I’m sure this will be a great memory for all of us,” the Zags coach said in a statement.

The aircraft carrier craze went away after 2012, when Mother Nature played some serious lockdown defense, at least on the East Coast.

In a scheduled Carrier Classic doubleheader aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, on Nov. 9, 2012, Notre Dame beat Ohio State in a women’s game that started in the afternoon. But a men’s game between Ohio State and Marquette scheduled for the evening never started because of condensation on the court.

That same night, a game against Georgetown and Florida aboard the active-duty USS Bataan in Gainesville, Florida, was called off after the first half because of condensation.

In San Diego, a game between Syracuse and San Diego State scheduled for the evening of Nov. 9 aboard the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum on the San Diego side of the bay was pushed back two days because of rain. When it was played in brilliant sunshine on the afternoon of Nov. 11, a brisk wind blowing across the bay contributed to the host Aztecs making just 1 of 18 3-point shots in a 62-49 loss to the taller Orange and its zone defense.

Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, said all parties will consider contingencies in case of bad weather or world events that would make the aircraft carrier unavailable.

He said returning to an aircraft carrier game was “just an option that presented itself. There was no grand plan with it. It was something that was made available in terms of a discussion and we explored it and found it to be viable. More importantly, we found teams who wanted to engage in that experience and were very understanding of the logistical challenges that could be presented.

“There has always been an intrigue from coaches and participating institutions to provide a thank you back to the men and women of the military,” Overby said. “The number of teams that have lined up to play in these events, whether they be overseas or even domestically, that’s been, in our minds, very well-received by the intercollegiate basketball community. So, we’re excited about that.”

Former Michigan State star Adreian Payne shot, killed

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Adreian Payne, a former Michigan State basketball standout and NBA player, died in a shooting at 31.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to a shooting at 1:34 a.m. Monday when Payne was identified and taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Lawrence Dority, 29, was present at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested on a first-degree murder warrant after homicide detectives interviewed him.

Payne played in 107 NBA games, averaging four points and three rebounds, over four seasons with Atlanta, Minnesota and Orlando. The Hawks drafted him No. 15 overall in 2014, traded him to the Timberwolves, and he averaged 6.7 points and 5.1 rebounds as a potentially promising rookie.

The Magic waived the 6-foot-10 forward in January, 2018, after he was part of an ESPN report that detailed sexual assault allegations against former basketball and football players at the school.

Payne played professionally earlier this year for Juventus in Lithuania. He also played in Turkey, France, Greece and China.

Payne, who is from Dayton, Ohio, started in 94 of 138 games over four seasons for Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo at Michigan State. He averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds as a senior during the 2013-14 season.

Former college teammate Brandon Wood said he had kept in touch with Payne, speaking with him as recently as last month about his plans to start a non-fungible token.

“He was looking to start an NFT tied to the Spartans,” Wood said in a telephone interview. “I’ll never forget the good times I had with him and Draymond (Green) when we were roommates. If you ever spent time around AP, you understood that he had a really big heart and he cared about people.”

Michigan State great Magic Johnson remembered Payne with a post on social media. “Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and Spartan Nation! Adreian will be sorely missed,” Johnson wrote on Twitter.

While in college, Payne befriended 8-year-old, cancer-stricken Lacey Holsworth and spoke at her memorial ceremony in April, 2014.

“I’ve had my moments when I’ve been mad at AP because he didn’t do something right,” Izzo said in a 2014 interview with the Big Ten Network. “I’ve been happy with him, I’ve been proud of him, I’ve been disappointed. All the things that go on in coaching. But until the day I die, I’ll never forget those couple of scenes that I was privileged to be part of thanks to him.”

Big Ten places four teams in women’s Sweet 16 again

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 20 Div I Womens Championship - Second Round - Maryland v Florida Gulf Coast
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It has been seven years since the Big Ten had a team reach the Final Four and more than two decades since the conference had a national champion in women’s basketball.

With the conference having four teams in the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year, those streaks could be ending soon.

Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State and Maryland are all playing in the regional semifinals this weekend – matching the ACC for most teams left in the NCAA Tournament.

All four coaches credit the toughness of the conference as one of the main reasons for the success they’ve had so far on the game’s biggest stage.

“I think the biggest thing is we prepare each other for these moments,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “It’s so good and so competitive that we’re prepared for these games. The Big Ten prepares us for all these opponents we’re seeing right now.”

Indiana reached the regional final last season and has most of its team back from that run. The Hoosiers face UConn on Saturday in the Sweet 16.

Maryland, which faces Stanford on Friday, was the last team from the Big Ten to reach the Final Four, doing so in 2014. Coach Brenda Frese knows how important it can be to have made it to the regionals before.

“You have to gain that experience to get to the Sweet 16s and get to an Elite Eight like Indiana last year,” Frese said. “Your roster has to get that experience. That’s the cool thing to see now back-to-back years four teams making it to the Sweet 16. Teams are gaining a ton of experience to understand these rounds and how difficult it is.”

Michigan, which faces South Dakota on Saturday, is playing in its second straight Sweet 16 after never making it that far before.

“I’ve said it since I got here, the quote Geno (Auriemma) gave me 20 years ago. It’s easy to get there, the hard part is staying there,” Wolverines coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “When you have a league that has back-to-back four teams in the Sweet 16, it really speaks to you staying there and having arrived.”

All of the coaches are rooting for each other to succeed. As soon as the other Big Ten schools advanced, Frese tweeted out her excitement for them.

“Brenda has been a real champion of this and is 100% right,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “A lot of the other leagues out there have TV networks that trumpet their teams. We have to similarly as coaches promoting how good we are. We know how good we are. Everyone knows it as well.”

The sixth-seeded Buckeyes will face Texas on Friday

With the four women’s teams advancing to the Sweet 16 and a couple of Big Ten men’s teams still playing also, it will be a busy next few days for Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. He plans to try to take in as many of the games as he possibly can in person while watching others on his phone.

He believes his conference is really close to breaking its national semifinals drought.

“We are on the forefront of putting teams in the Final Four on a regular basis and winning national championships,” Warren said in a phone interview from the airport. “I look forward to seeing them go into the Final Four and look forward to the day when I see when the national championship trophy is handed to them.”

Warren also made changes in the conference office this season, hiring Megan Kahn in November to be the conference’s Vice President of Women’s Basketball.

“That showed the true commitment from Kevin Warren, our commissioner, who is passionate about women’s hoops,” Moren said. “Him hiring her and really making this a position exclusive for women’s basketball is a huge deal.”

Warren said creating that position was one of his top goals when he got hired.

“I had a list of transition initiatives and that was a top one,” he said. “The first year we had to deal with COVID, so it got delayed.”

He also has spent the last two years developing relationships with many of the coaches and players. He went to all of the women’s games at the conference tournament and constantly texts them before and after games.

“They know I’m there. They know I can’t be in two places at once or I’d be there,” he said. “I’ll see Indiana this weekend. Hopefully all four of our teams win, so I can figure out where to go.”

Coach K’s last ride continues as Duke closes out Spartans

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GREENVILLE, S.C. — Duke survived a tense finish against Michigan State and extended Mike Krzyzewski’s final NCAA Tournament run, beating Tom Izzo’s Spartans 85-76 on Sunday in the Hall of Fame coaches’ bittersweet final tussle.

Star freshman Paolo Banchero scored 19 points and muscled in the go-ahead drive through contact with 2:05 left, putting the Blue Devils (30-6) ahead to stay in the record-extending 1,200th win of Krzyzewski’s career. Duke reached the Sweet 16 for the 26th time under Coach K, who announced last summer that his 42nd season with the Blue Devils would be his last.

Those coaching milestones came against his longtime friend and frequent rival. The 75-year-old Krzyzewski – who has five NCAA titles and a record-tying 12 Final Four appearances – improved to 13-3 against the 67-year-old Izzo, who won the 2000 national championship and has reached eight Final Fours.

Krzyzewski will continue his push for a career-capping championship when the second-seeded Blue Devils head to San Francisco to play Notre Dame or Texas Tech next week in the West Region semifinals.

The Blue Devils shot 61% after halftime and 57% for the game, and they needed every bit of that production to survive against the seventh-seeded Spartans (23-13) in a riveting fight to the final minute.

“That was a great game, and they knocked us back. So proud of my guys, and for a young group, they showed incredible guts,” Krzyzewski said on the CBS telecast.

Michigan State had a five-point lead with five minutes left to put Duke’s season in peril, only to see the Blue Devils respond with one big shot after another.

Gabe Brown scored 18 points to lead Michigan State, while Tyson Walker scored all 13 of his points after halftime. The Spartans shot 42% for the game and had only one field goal over the final 2 1/2 minutes in possession-by-possession fight as Duke made its move.

The 6-foot-10 Banchero had the biggest basket by putting the ball on the floor and scoring in a mauling drive against the smaller Joey Hauser for the 75-74 lead. Then Jeremy Roach hit a 3-pointer over A.J. Hoggard to beat the shot clock for a four-point lead with 1:16 left, sending an already-charged crowd into a full roar.

Even more impressive, Duke did it all with freshman starter A.J. Griffin sidelined the last 8:24 with an apparent left ankle injury. The Blue Devils closed out the game by outscoring the Spartans 20-6.

When it was clear the Blue Devils were only a few seconds from victory, Krzyzewski whipped around to the section where his family was sitting behind the bench and extended both arms to point at them in celebration.

After the buzzer, Krzyzewski and Izzo shared a long hug at midcourt to mark the end of a series that became a nonconference staple.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Izzo, who won the 2000 NCAA title and has eight Final Fours in 27 seasons, acknowledged all the “weird emotions” sure to come for both teams in this game. His team gave itself a chance but couldn’t slow the Blue Devils’ late push. Izzo fell to 2-4 against Krzyzewski in the NCAA Tournament.

Duke: Banchero, a top NBA prospect, and 7-foot-1 Mark Williams (15 points, eight rebounds, five blocks) overpowered the Spartans – who have plenty of length themselves – and showed how good the Blue Devils can be in the front court. Duke was balanced with five double-figure scorers, though Griffin’s injury will be a concern.

Krzyzewski, Izzo set for final meeting in NCAA tourney

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GREENVILLE, S.C. — In a sport where the only lasting stars are the coaches, few are more recognizable than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.

Both have spent decades at the top of their profession, with national titles, Final Fours and enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

They’ve squared off far more frequently than usual for teams in different leagues, including on the sport’s biggest stage in the NCAA Tournament.

On Sunday, they’ll do it one final time.

“The game is bigger than normal,” Izzo said Saturday, adding later: “There’s going to be weird emotions on both sides of the scorers’ table.”

The second-seeded Blue Devils (29-6) and seventh-seeded Spartans (23-12) meet in the West Region’s second round in a matchup that has more at stake than which team advances to next week’s Sweet 16 in San Francisco.

It’s a farewell to a series, entering its 16th meeting, between coaching buddies whose meetings have become a welcome staple on the nonconference schedule. It’s also a reminder of the changing college basketball landscape. Krzyzewski plans to retire after Duke’s final game, and a coaching rivalry like his with Izzo could become a thing of the past amid today’s churn of coaching changes.

“It’s kind of hard for me to prepare,” Izzo said. “Everybody’s saying, `Are you going to end his career on this note? Are you going to do this? Are you going to do that?’

“First of all, I’m not going to do any of that. The players will hopefully find a way to win. But just think what he’s going through and his players are going through. Emotionally, it’s got to be an incredible – I can’t even imagine.”

The resumes are just as incredible for the pair of tournament-tested coaches.

The 75-year-old Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in college basketball history and can reach 1,200 victories on Sunday to go with his five national championships and record-tying 12 Final Four trips in a 47-year career, 42 coming at Duke. Izzo, 67, won the 2000 NCAA title and is second among active coaches with eight Final Fours in his 27 seasons.

Yet what makes this meeting special is the fact these long-successful coaches keep finding their way to each other; this will mark the sixth straight season that the Blue Devils and Spartans will meet. Both are part of the four-team Champions Classic along with Kentucky and Kansas that traditionally kicks off the season. They’ve also met as part of the annual series between the Atlantic Coast and Big Ten conferences.

Krzyzewski has gotten the best of Izzo with a 12-3 record, including 3-2 in the NCAAs with Final Four wins in 1999 and 2015. But the most recent postseason meeting went to Izzo, whose Spartans edged a top-seeded Duke team led by eventual No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Zion Williamson in the 2019 Elite Eight.

Izzo acknowledged his losing mark after Friday’s win over Davidson by saying he has “got to be (Krzyzewski’s) favorite coach because he’s beaten us like a drum.”

“You don’t put a banner up by your record against a certain team or a certain coach,” Krzyzewski said. “So if you get caught up in that or your record on a Saturday afternoon or whatever, for me, it’s been the wrong thing to do.

“I know the only banners that are up at Duke are championship banners, and that means you have to beat a number of people.”

Krzyzewski is nearly out of time to add to that list, his career down to no more than five games before he joins the list of prominent retirees like North Carolina Hall of Famer Roy Williams and Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger, both of whom left the sport last spring.

The future beyond that? Krzyzewski, who has long advocated for more proactive NCAA leadership when it comes to helping the game evolve, is thinking about it in the fleeting moments between preparing his team for the next game.

“I would hope that people, whoever is looking at the future of our game and the future of college sports would try to get the veteran coaches – whether it be women’s basketball, men’s basketball, especially the two of us together – to take a look at the world of basketball on the collegiate level and share ideas, share what we think might be good for a new structure,” Krzyzewski said.

“That would, I think, give a greater in-depth look at our game and how it might be able to advance and stay with the stature that it has and maybe increase.”

Izzo seems like one of the first names to add to that list, though he’s not quite ready to turn his thoughts beyond coaching. Asked whether recent retirement announcements affect his thinking on his future, Izzo said he’s planning to stay with it “for a while” and knows he’ll have friends to reach out to in Krzyzewski, Williams and others when it’s time to consider walking away.

For now, all he can do is get ready for one more round with his pal.

“For 40 minutes, I’ll bet you Mike wants to beat the hell out of me, and I bet you I want to beat the hell out of him,” Izzo said. “And what happens after, only time will tell.”