AUSTIN, Texas - Tom Izzo wasn’t going to wait. He figured Kentucky’s rim-dancing 3-pointer would be ruled a basket, so he grabbed his clipboard and started getting Michigan State ready for overtime.
“Now let’s beat them a second time,” he barked into the huddle.
Deflated at first, the Spartans recovered in time to heed the coach’s call.
With Kelvin Torbert smiling at his teammates and screaming “Let’s go!”, the Spartans denied the Wildcats from even getting off a potential winning shot at the end of overtime, then coolly took care of things in a second OT, pulling out a 94-88 victory Sunday to send the Spartans into the Final Four.
“We survived,” Izzo said.
“It will go down in history as a great college basketball game,” Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. “It hurts right now, but some of our guys will appreciate it later on.”
The second-seeded Wildcats (28-6) dug out of an eight-point hole with 5:25 left, mainly with 3-pointers, then missed a pair of 3s that could’ve tied it at the end of regulation — only to have the ball wind up in the hands of outside ace Patrick Sparks. He let it go with a second to spare, then saw the ball bounce four times on the rim before dropping.
Officials needed more than five minutes to make sure his right tiptoe was behind the arc. Referee James Burr finally decided it was after asking CBS to zoom in on Sparks’ feet.
Rejuvenated, Kentucky scored the next four points, but couldn’t maintain it.
After fifth-seeded Michigan State (26-6) tied it with 1:03 left, the Wildcats had the ball the rest of the way, yet managed just one shot — a bad one — and none after Torbert’s rallying cry with 20 seconds left.
“As soon as I got it, I should’ve shot it,” said Kelenna Azubuike, who had both the ugly miss and was stuck holding the ball when time ran out.
Torbert opened the second overtime with a free throw, and Michigan State never trailed again. The Spartans made 11 straight foul shots in the second overtime, then let out all sorts of pent-up emotions.
The relief went beyond the obvious, that they’re joining Big Ten rival Illinois with a chance to win it all. For the upperclassmen, especially the seniors, this victory emphatically shed their label as soft, weak underachievers, and guaranteed them of continuing the Final Four tradition begun by predecessors from 1999-2001.
CBT: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made it official that he'll be coaching Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and he'll also be with Duke at least that long, too.
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