Thursday, May 23, 2024

Déjà Blue

Tar Heels stomp Spartans 89-72; MSU falls one win short of third NCAA title

April 7, 2009

Sophomore guard Kalin Lucas and sophomore guard Chris Allen react to a call made by the officials during the 2009 NCAA men’s championship basketball game Monday evening at Ford Field in Detroit.

Detroit — Same two teams. Same venue. Same sad story for the MSU men’s basketball team. Four months after thumping the Spartans by 35 points at Ford Field, North Carolina came back to the Motor City on Monday night and reaffirmed that it is the best team in the nation, as the Tar Heels throttled MSU 89-72 to claim the 2009 NCAA national championship.

“They played well and I guess I was disappointed,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “We turned it over early, we missed some shots early and we didn’t check very well. They got off to that 24-7 lead and that’s the way it stayed. We couldn’t really dig into it.”

Senior center Goran Suton led MSU with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while sophomore guard Kalin Lucas scored 14 points and had seven assists. Sophomore guard Durrell Summers had 13 points for the Spartans, who finished with a record of 31-7.

The fifth national championship in North Carolina history solidified the decision of the Tar Heels’ group of Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson to hold off the NBA for one more season.

Lawson led North Carolina (34-4) with 21 points and six assists, along with a title game-record eight steals. Ellington, who was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, had 19 points, while Hansbrough added 18.

“I thought about how hard we worked,” Ellington said in a televised interview before a national audience after the game. “We’ve been working so hard since last year when we fell short. We wanted to redeem ourselves. I’m proud of all my teammates and my coaches. It feels great.”

Recalling the Dec. 3 debacle, Izzo said earlier in the weekend that if the Spartans and Tar Heels both played “good,” North Carolina would win by 20 points. Unfortunately for Izzo, the Spartans didn’t even get to test his theory as the game was all but over in the first half.

By the time the under-16 minute media timeout was called, the Tar Heels had a 10-point lead, 17-7, thanks in part to five MSU turnovers and North Carolina making six of its first seven shots. A Hansbrough leaner in the lane midway through the first half put North Carolina up by 20. When the two teams headed into the locker room at halftime, North Carolina had sprinted out to a 55-34 lead, setting NCAA title game records for largest halftime lead and most points in a half.

“Usually when you face a team in a tournament there’s a weakness among the five players, where you can sag off or do something else, but in North Carolina, all five players can do something,” Suton said of the Tar Heels, who shot 52.9 percent in the first half. “It was tough to help (on defense) and I think we got caught up in trying to stick to our man. I think we lost the game in the first 10 minutes when they hit pretty much every shot.”

The closest MSU would come was 13 with about five minutes remaining.

The Spartans finished with 21 turnovers — their third-highest total of the season, topped only by MSU’s regular season losses to North Carolina and Purdue. North Carolina committed seven turnovers, and scored 25 points off MSU’s miscues.

“The turnovers were the big key,” Izzo said. “To have 14 turnovers in the first half on a team that doesn’t really press hurt us a little bit.”

Senior guard Travis Walton said despite the loss, the Spartans should remember they were one of two teams playing in the season’s final game.

“Even though we didn’t play our best it’s a blessing we got here,” Walton said. “Nobody even thought we’d be in this position, to be playing for a national championship, and we’re not going to drop our heads because we’ve done an unbelievable job.”

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