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SPORTS EXTRA / NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Redemptive Returns

Michigan State Makes It Back to Final Four and Arizona Finally Lives Up to Its Billing

South Regional: Spartans get all they can handle from 11th-seeded Temple, but Chaney falls short again, 69-62.

March 26, 2001|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — An aging prince exited the stage once more Sunday, and college basketball's reigning kings are back in the Final Four.

The Michigan State Spartans are going to Minneapolis to defend their NCAA title after a 69-62 victory over Temple and its heart-tugging coach, John Chaney, in the South Regional final at the Georgia Dome.

Afterward, as his players spoke of not being able to get him to his first Final Four at 69, Chaney's dark-circled eyes teared up and he covered his face with his large, slender hand.

"We wanted to do the same thing for him that he wanted to do for us," guard Quincy Wadley said, his voice growing soft.

Chaney, sitting next to him, pulled him close and kissed him on the cheek.

"Coach is getting up in age. Every chance, it seems like we're right there," Wadley said. "We just can't get over that hurdle. It's a shame, knowing how hard we've worked. How hard he's worked. Like I said before, he deserves it."

Michigan State earned its third consecutive trip to the Final Four with depth and rebounding and an unlikely hero, guard David Thomas.

Thomas averaged only 4.8 points a game, but he lit up Temple's famous zone defense for 19, making eight of 10 shots.

"It was somewhat of a dream come true, but if we can win another national championship, it will feel even better," Thomas said.

He turned the tables on one of Chaney's favorite sayings: "Deal with the known. Leave the unknown alone."

Temple left the unknown Thomas open and dared him to shoot.

"We got beat by a shooter who has bad statistics," Chaney said with a little laugh. "You can't put five fingers on all the holes."

Poignant as the day was--the loss was Chaney's fifth in a regional final and the second in three years--he also was on an emotional high created by a 24-13 team that lost seven games in a row yet eventually reached the final eight.

"They'll get over this and so will I," Chaney said. "I've been through it so many times. I'll get over it."

The Spartans (28-4) are a different team from last year's champions, with three new starters.

But even in their triumph, they took note of Temple's loss.

"We beat one of the classiest coaches and classiest programs that we have played," Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said.

"If there was ever a game where it was harder to play, it was this one. I think John Chaney stands for everything I believe in, and hopefully I can last as many years as he has, because he has done an incredible job."

What Michigan State did was workmanlike too.

The Spartans got their first offensive rebound on their first possession, when Thomas grabbed the ball after a miss by Charlie Bell.

Temple didn't get an offensive rebound until midway through the first half.

By the end of the game, the Spartans outrebounded Temple, 43-27, with 14 offensive rebounds.

Zach Randolph led the way with 14 rebounds off the bench. Andre Hutson had 10 as part of a double-double that included 11 points, and he added four assists. Thomas contributed seven rebounds in addition to his scoring.

Temple point guard Lynn Greer scored 22 points, but made only seven of 21 shots, and his backcourt partner Quincy Wadley went bust against Michigan State's defense, making only two of 12 to score four points.

Temple made only four of 23 three-point shots and the Owls' 17% three-point shooting was its worst of the season.

"They play great team defense," Wadley said. "Even when you get by your man, another guy is waiting. They're real physical. They bump you a lot. It throws your shot off."

Nobody could bump the Owls' Kevin Lyde off his shot. Temple's beefy center scored 21 points and made 10 of 15 shots, leaning and pounding and unleashing a deadly turnaround.

Michigan State jumped to a 12-point lead early in the game, only to see it dwindle when Chaney brought seldom-used 6-foot-10, 290-pound center Ron Rollerson off the bench.

Rollerson's defense and rebounding in the final eight minutes of the first half helped Temple come back to trail by only three at halftime.

He started the second half, but was clearly tired and played only 10 minutes in the game.

Michigan State stretched the lead to 11 again. Then Wadley finally made his first basket of the game five minutes into the second half, and Temple started closing.

With 6 1/2 minutes left, the lead was three after a three-pointer by Alex Wesby.

Temple had a chance to cut the lead to one, but David Hawkins' jump shot went in and out.

Try as they did, Greer and Wadley never got the lead under three, their contested shots falling short of their mark.

They were close enough to taste it.

Chaney understands.

"All of us dream," he said. "But very often our dreams and aspirations are beyond what we accomplish. Very often. In most cases.

"There's always an end to situations. You don't realize everything you hope to accomplish. When you're dealing with human beings, to see the growth in these guys, I can't help but feel that's the highest accomplishment I'll ever reach.

"I think in all my years--10 years at Cheyney State and now 19 here at Temple, I can go back as far as I remember and see nothing but wins and winners. (Chaney won a Division II national title at Cheyney State.)

"I see people who have been part of my life and still are. That tends to offer testimony to what my life is about."

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