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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Michigan State Smothers Vermont

March 21, 2005|Tom Yantz | The Hartford Courant

WORCESTER, Mass. — Michigan State outscored Vermont, 16-2, on the fastbreak and held the Catamounts' offense to a season-low 31.4% shooting.

"We kept pounding them like in a prize fight," Michigan State forward Maurice Ager said. "And they buckled."

The Spartans ended the Catamounts' enchanted ride in the NCAA tournament with a 72-61 second-round victory in the Austin Regional on Sunday before 13,008 at the DCU Center.

"They were going faster," Vermont Coach Tom Brennan said. "They were going harder. They just had a little more zip."

Ager paced the No. 5-seeded Spartans with 19 points on seven-for-13 shooting. Kelvin Torbert had 14 points and Alan Anderson and Paul Davis each scored 11.

Michigan State (24-6) advanced to a semifinal against No. 1 Duke on Friday night. It is the sixth Sweet 16 appearance for the Spartans in the last eight years.

"People across the nation were pulling for Vermont because they're Cinderella," said Davis, who added a career-high 14 rebounds. "But we were looking to move on, just like they were."

Davis, a 6-foot-11 center, was the focus of Michigan State's stellar inside defense. He was the primary defender against forward Taylor Coppenrath. Davis was resolute, denying entry passes, bumping Coppenrath out of position and just playing solid position defense.

Coppenrath, who was averaging 25.4 points, scored 16 and had 14 rebounds. Respectable numbers, but he shot only five for 23.

"They did a good job of double- and triple-teaming me, and they were tough and really physical," Coppenrath said.

No. 13 Vermont (25-7) got a big game from T.J. Sorrentine, who had 26 points. He scored 16 points in the first half, 12 on three-pointers.

Michigan State, which led, 35-28, at halftime, went ahead, 50-36, on Ager's free throw with 14:42 to play. Vermont drew as close as 52-45.

Torbert's fastbreak layup put the Spartans on top, 62-48, with 6 1/2 minutes to go.

Vermont scored its only fastbreak points on David Hehn's layup with 5:12 remaining.

Michigan State's depth -- eight players scored -- wore down Vermont. It wasn't just the number of players, it was also their physical tenacity.

"They got in our snoot and played us tough," said Brennan, who is retiring after 19 years.

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