(Sunday, March 29)
Final Score: Michigan State 76, Louisville 70 (OT)
Syracuse, NY (SportsNetwork.com) – Tom Izzo and Michigan State are heading back to the Final Four, this time as a No. 7 seed. The unheralded Spartans survived Louisville 76-70 in overtime on Sunday to cut down the nets at the Carrier Dome as champions of the East Region. Mangok Mathiang had a chance to put Louisville ahead with 4.9 seconds left in regulation, but the 48.0 percent free throw shooter only made the first of his two free throws. The Spartans never trailed in overtime and are heading to Indianapolis next weekend to face South Region champ Duke. Michigan State (27-11) faced an eight-point deficit at halftime before locking down defensively. Louisville was limited to 18.8 percent (6-of-32) shooting after the break to fall short of reaching its third Final Four in four years. Instead the Spartans are regional champs for the seventh time under Izzo, who won the chess match against Hall-of-Fame coach Rick Pitino thanks in part to a deep bench that outscored its counterparts 26-5. Travis Trice scored a team-high 17 points, Denzel Valentine added 15 and Bryn Forbes led MSU’s reserves with 14. Branden Dawson chipped in with nine points and 11 rebounds and provided a big putback late in OT. Dawson also helped shut down Montrezl Harrell, who scored 12 points over the first 11 minutes but was held without a field goal the rest of the way. Harrell finished with 16 points, Wayne Blackshear poured in 28 and Terry Rozier added 13 on 23 shots.
Final Score: Duke 66, Gonzaga 52
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) – Duke overcame a poor shooting performance and another quiet showing from Jahlil Okafor on Sunday to win the South Region and reach its 12th Final Four under Mike Krzyzewski. Matt Jones and Justise Winslow each scored 16 points for the top-seeded Blue Devils, who pulled away late and denied Gonzaga its first Final Four berth in a 66-52 victory that was closer than the final score indicated. Duke (33-4) shot an uncharacteristic 37.5 percent from the floor but only turned it over three times and held Gonzaga without a a field goal over the final 6 1/2 minutes. Tyus Jones chipped in with 15 points and six assists, while Okafor was held to single digits for the second straight game. The National Player of the Year candidate was held to six points in a win over Utah on Friday and only scored nine with eight rebounds on Sunday. Despite Okafor’s struggles, the Blue Devils are headed to Indianapolis to face East Region champ Michigan State on Saturday. The Spartans upended Louisville on Sunday to set up a head coaching duel between Tom Izzo and Krzyzewski, who tied UCLA legend John Wooden for the most all-time Final Four appearances. Kyle Wiltjer paced second-seeded Gonzaga (35-3) with 16 points, and the senior backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. totaled nine on 4-of-14 shooting.