MSU overcomes outstanding Virginia defense

Tribune News Service • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:11 PM

They grind and grind and grind.

Like they have for the past three months, the Virginia Cavaliers gave nothing away Friday night and early Saturday morning at Madison Square Garden.

Down 10 early to Michigan State in the Sweet 16 nightcap, Tony Bennett's team stuck to the game plan. If more grinding was required, that is what the Cavaliers would do.

A 10-0 run followed, and like that, any hope on Michigan State's part of solving the riddle of U.Va.'s relentless defense and unnervingly patient offense was dashed.

For the rest of the way, the game would be played on U.Va.'s terms, like so many others were as the Cavaliers won the ACC regular season and conference tournament.

But Michigan State guards well, too, so when the Big Ten team scored on a drive and another twisting layup with 6:09 remaining and went up by seven, the game appeared settled.

Not quite. With 1:49 to go, Justin Anderson hit a 3-point jumper and the score was tied.

Down the stretch, though, the Spartans had as much starch in their spines as the Cavaliers, scoring five consecutive points to create just enough separation.

And still, U.Va. kept grinding, cutting the lead to two on a Joe Harris 3-point shot. And again a few seconds later on a pair of London Perrantes free throws.

By then, time was on Michigan State's side.

Time and clutch free-throw shooting.

"There were a couple times when they could have laid down," Bennett said of his players, "but they didn't."

But when the game was over and U.Va.'s quest for the Final Four had been extinguished in a riveting 61-59 result, the Cavaliers left an impression on people who might have wondered if they deserved their No. 1 seeding.

Virginia had the best of the crowd, and when Michigan State couldn't score from the field for the longest time as the second half began, the orange-clad fans were on their feet. The game appeared to be swinging the way of the ACC champs.

"The difference in the game," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, "is we survived that stretch."

By Bob Molinaro, The Virginian-Pilot (MCT)

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