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SPORTS EXTRA / NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT | SOUTH NOTES

Motivation Was High for Spartan Thomas

March 26, 2001|ROBYN NORWOOD

ATLANTA — David Thomas was Michigan State's unexpected hero Sunday, and he played with people other than his teammates in mind.

His mother has breast cancer and is preparing to undergo radiation. His grandmother has had two heart attacks, and cousin, Wayne, only 38, is dying of lung cancer.

"I played for them," Thomas said. "It's been on my mind constantly."

Thomas, a senior, had scored only 20 total points in 12 previous NCAA tournament games, but had 19 Sunday.

That's because part of Temple Coach John Chaney's strategy was to let Thomas shoot.

Thomas called Chaney "a great coach who has great ideas."

"But maybe this wasn't one of them," he said.

Chaney defended his decision.

"It's like baseball. You look at someone's average against a left-handed pitcher. Maybe he bats .350, but he can't hit left-handed pitching. You take him out.

"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

"Any sport, you have to deal with statistics. You deal with the body of work. That youngster [beat us.]"

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Michigan State is the 10th team to reach the Final Four in three consecutive seasons.

The Spartans are only the third team to reach three in a row since the field expanded to 64 in 1985.

The others are Duke (1988-92) and Kentucky (1996-98).

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Temple guard Lynn Greer missed a free throw in the second half.

It ended his perfect streak in the NCAA tournament at 27.

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Depth perception: Three Temple players played all 40 minutes.

The only Michigan State player to play more than 34 was point guard Charlie Bell with 36.

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College boards: After four games, the Spartans have outrebounded their NCAA tournament opponents by an average margin of 18.8.

Michigan State leads the nation in rebounding margin with a positive differential of 15.1.

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The Spartans made it back to the Final Four despite losing Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and A.J. Granger from last year's team.

"This really sets us apart," Bell said. "Right now, we're coming into our own identity."

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