Last-Second Free-Throw Sends Michigan State To Final Four over Tennessee

March 29th, 2010- By Bryan Cross

Tom Izzo has propelled the Michigan State Spartans to the college basketball elite, and now has the team making a repeat trip to the Final Four after finishing runner-up to North Carolina a year ago.

Behind a game-winning free-throw by Raymar Morgan with two seconds remaining, the Spartans were lifted to a 70-69 win over the Tennessee Volunteers, and make their sixth trip to the final four in the last 12 years,winning the Midwest Regional.

“There is nothing greater than going to a Final Four that I know of,” Izzo said after the game, “except winning it.”

Over the 12 year span, no other team in the college basketball landscape can claim the post-season success the Michigan State has, with each appearance coming under Izzo’s tenure at the school.  Izzo improves to 6-1 in Elite-8 games, losing only to Texas in 2003.

“Tom Izzo does his best in the NCAA tournament,” said former Spartan All-American Magic Johnson. “He loves the big moment. He understands what he needs to do against every team. He comes up with a great game plan every single time. He deserves all the credit in the world.”

The Spartans have won two national championships in their history, with one coming under Izzo.  They will face fellow No.5 seed Butler, who is coming off back-to-back wins over the No.1 and No.2 seeds in the West Regional.

“They’re hot right now. They’re playing some of their best basketball,” Morgan said as their focus shifts towards the next match up. “But we’re also hot right now. We’re playing some of our best basketball.”

Throughout the second half, the Spartans controlled a comfortable lead, at one point increasing it to eight points before Tennessee made a comeback.

The Volunteers brought it to 69-68 with 2:10 left.  Seconds later, Korie Lucious was fouled by Tennessee and missed the 1-and-1 to allow the Volunteers to drive down the court with a chance to take a lead.

Scotty Thompson took it down the court and was fouled, but only converted on 1 of 2 free-throw attempts.  As the seconds wounds down, Morgan drove down the other part of the court and was fouled with 1.8seconds left.  He made the first, and missed the second, still giving life to the Volunteers.  The desperation shot failed however as the buzzer sounded, and the game came to a close.

“It’s just tough, 1 second,” Volunteer player J.P Prince said. “You want to shoot it perfect but you’ve got to rush. You don’t want it to come down to a half-court shot, but that’s what it came down to.”

This Tennessee team made it further than any other team in school history before them, but wound up just short of another stepping stone to their ultimate goal.

“We came to St. Louis expecting to win two games and we played pretty well both nights,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said after the game. “We saw all that orange out there. This isn’t close to home, either. They got in their car and they drove here. I think they enjoyed this group tremendously.”

Michigan State overcame the adversity however in the loss of stand-out Kalin Lucas, and their journey continues.

“I said [before the game], ‘You put yourself in a position where you have a chance to do something you talked about,'” Izzo remarked. “Not many people get a chance to do that.”

The Spartans came into the game as two-point underdogs by USA Online Sportsbooks and covered the margin by virtue of their one-point victory.  The over/under was set at 135 1/2 points and went the over with a total of 139 points.

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