|#2||Michigan St. (30-7) ||70|
|#1||Connecticut (32-4) ||76|
Detroit, MI - Playing just seven players, UConn (32-4) disappoints the Detroit crowd at Ford Field with a second half rally that puts the Huskies in the national championship game and ends Michigan State's (30-7) impressive tournament run, which included wins over defending champion Kansas and the number one overall seed, Louisville.. UConn's 7'3" junior center Hasheem Thabeet leads all scorers with 17 points - to go with 11 rebounds and four blocks - in the 76-70 win.
Opening the game on a 10-3 run, Michigan State actually holds a 38-33 lead at halftime. Behind ten points from tournament standout Goran Suton, one of the few centers capable of pulling Thabeet away from the basket, the Spartans only trail for 36 seconds of the first half. With a far more aggressive Thabeet on both ends of the court in the second half, Suton wouldn't score again - not a god sign for Michigan State.
Kalin Lucas opens the second half with a running jumper that extends the lead to 40-33. Uconn answers right back with a surprisingly thunderous dunk by freshman Kemba Walker, that excites the Huskies' bench and their fans. A three by Craig Austrie with 12:28 remaining ignites a run that ultimately gives UConn a 49-48.
The teams alternate baskets for more than five minutes with neither team gaining greater than a three point lead. This until Thabeet hits a baby hook with 7:18 to play to put UConn on top 64-59. The Huskies' frontcourt of Thabeet, Gavin Edwards and Stanley Robinson scores the remaining 14 points of the game, while the backcourt of A.J. Price, Walker and Austrie forces four crucial turnovers by Michigan State guards down the stretch.
While the game may be higher scoring than most would expect from two teams that love to play defense, hit the boards and slow things down, the last 2:44 of the game seem appropriate with just two points scored.
Lucas matches Thabeet's point total of 17, yet only shoots 5-of-18 overall and 1-of-6 from deep. Despite not scoring in the second half, Suton still notches a double-double with ten points and ten rebounds. Three-point shooting, which carried the Spartans through their victory over Louisville in the Regional Finals, proves to be the team's downfall in the Final Four. As a team, Michigan State hits just 2-of-11 three-point shots.
For UConn, Thabeet is joined in double-figures by Walker with 16 and senior Jeff Adrien with 14. A.J. Price, the tournament's third leading scorer entering the game, puts up just eight points, yet plays the point extremely well, directing the Huskie offense with nine assists.
Many doubted UConn entering the tournament, thinking it may be the weakest top seed. Instead, having won their five games by an average of 21.4 points a game, the Huskies are looking great as the first team to advance to the championship game. They may not be deep, seven players played between 17 and 34 minutes, but UConn has exceptional, NBA-caliber players at every position. Healthy and out of foul trouble, this team is as good as any.
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