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Cleaves Saves Michigan State

March 19, 2000|From Associated Press

Mateen Cleaves couldn't bear the thought of never playing another game in his Michigan State uniform. And once Cleaves decided his college career wasn't ending Saturday, Utah couldn't do anything to stop him.

"It was like a demon came out of him or something," Michigan State forward Morris Peterson said.

Cleaves scored 21 points--13 in the second half--as No. 1-seeded Michigan State rallied and earned a chance to play close to home with a 73-61 victory over No. 8 Utah in the second round of the NCAA Midwest Regional at Cleveland State.

Michigan State (28-7) will play Syracuse Thursday in the regional semifinals at Auburn Hills, Mich., about an 80-mile drive from its East Lansing campus.

"We're going back to friendly territory," Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said. "Unfortunately, we'll never get enough tickets."

For a while, tickets were the least of Michigan State's problems.

Utah (23-9) was reduced to only seven scholarship players because of injuries but led for most of the first half and had a three-point advantage at halftime.

Sitting in the locker room at halftime, Cleaves pondered the possibility of losing.

"When it's your senior year," he said, "all you start thinking about is, 'Man, this could be the last time on the floor.' It could have been my last game in the green and white. And I wasn't ready for that."

Michigan State lost all three games it trailed at halftime during the regular season, and when Utah made its first four shots of the second half, the Spartans looked as if they might be in trouble.

But Cleaves had 11 points--including two of his four three-point baskets--during a game-deciding 27-7 run. He gave the Spartans the lead for good at 44-43 when he split two defenders with a crossover dribble near the foul line, and then ducked under 6-foot-10 Hanno Mottola for a double-pumping layup.

Utah shot 52% and had only nine turnovers, but as forward Alex Jensen said, "All of the injuries just made our margin for error real small."

Syracuse 52, Kentucky 50--Preston Shumpert's perimeter jumper from in front of the Syracuse bench with 37 seconds left was decisive as the No. 4 Orangemen (26-5) held off the No. 5 Wildcats (23-10).

"When you get shots like that in the clutch, the first thing you usually do is tense up. I'm glad I didn't," said Shumpert, who made only three of his other 13 shots in scoring 12 points--the only double-figure total for Syracuse.

Syracuse advances to the Sweet 16 for the third time in five years, while Kentucky makes its earliest tournament exit since losing in the second round in 1994. The Wildcats beat the Orangemen in the 1996 championship game.

Syracuse won despite shooting only 31.2% and not having Etan Thomas, its leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker, for most of the second half.

Thomas picked up his fourth foul away from the ball with 13:22 left and sat out the next five minutes.

While he was out of the game, a 33-31 Syracuse lead became a 42-40 deficit as Kentucky pounded the ball inside to big men Jamaal Magloire and Jules Camara.

Thomas returned and scored the Orangemen's next four points, keying an 8-3 spurt for a 48-45 lead. But Thomas was called for his fifth foul with 3:46 left when he hacked Prince on a drive in traffic.

Prince made one free throw and Camara followed with two thunderous dunks as the Wildcats pulled even at 50-50 with two minutes.

The teams had turnovers before Jason Hart drove the left side of the lane and whipped a long bounce pass to Shumpert on the opposite side of the court. His arching jumper swished through the net.

Kentucky set up its offense after three timeouts. Keith Bogans drove the lane and tossed up an off-balance 10-footer that came up short. Prince missed on a tip as the horn sounded.

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