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Michigan State tops top-seeded Duke, former coach

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Associated Press
March 25, 2009
— Joanne P. McCallie squatted on the sideline, staring in disbelief as her top-seeded Duke Blue Devils fell apart in an arena where she was once adored.

Michigan State fans came to boo their former coach.


They ended up cheering as loud as they have in years, witnessing a rare second-round upset against a woman who bolted for her dream job two years ago.


Mia Johnson scored a season-high 17 points and Lauren Aitch had 15, lifting the ninth-seeded Spartans to a 63-49 win Tuesday night over mighty Duke.


“It was never about playing Coach P. It was all about us,” Michigan State forward Aisha Jefferson said. “A lot of people just look at the name ‘Duke’ and that’s the end of the game right there.”


Duke was doomed because it didn’t make a shot for the last 7˝ minutes as it was outscored 16-2, leading to fans—including men’s basketball players—rushing the court to celebrate.


McCallie insisted it wasn’t surreal to end a promising season against a program she led to the 2005 championship game as the end of the game unfolded and the only question left was the final score.


“I was just trying to focus on us getting stops and scores,” McCallie said. “And, we didn’t get either.”


In more than a decade, the only top-seeded team to lose in the second round was Ohio State in 2006 setback against eighth-seeded Boston College.


“Coaching kind of takes a back seat sometimes and that’s what happened,” said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant, deflecting credit for knocking off her predecessor.


Michigan State (22-10) will face Iowa State (26-8) on Saturday night in the semifinals of the Berkeley Regional.


Jasmine Thomas had 14 points and Karima Christmas scored 13 for Duke (27-6) while leading scorer Chante Black was held to just four.


“I just don’t know what to think,” Christmas said. “I don’t want this season to end.”


The last time a national power was eliminated this early in the NCAA tournament was 1997.


The Blue Devils, who scored at least 75 points in each of their last six games, were held to a season-low total and made just 27 percent of their shots.


Raucous fans and flying elbows seemed to rattle them.


“We lost our composure,” McCallie acknowledged.


The game was so physical there were sequences in the lane that looked like NHL goal-mouth scrambles.


“We’re feisty,” Johnson said. “We weren’t going to back down.”


The fans weren’t, either.


McCallie was booed—louder than she was Sunday—when she was introduced and she simply smiled as she shook hands with Merchant and shared a laugh with her coaching staff.


Coach P knew how loud it could get in the Breslin Center because she coached there for seven seasons.


“This place is a better place for women’s basketball because Joanne P. McCallie was here,” Merchant said.


Duke insisted it wasn’t unfair, as a top-seeded team, to play on Michigan State’s home court. But it certainly gave the Spartans a lift to have most of the lower level in their arena filled.


Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo and several of his players even took time away from preparing for their third-round matchup with Kansas to watch. Football coach Mark Dantonio sat with Izzo and hugged Merchant after the game outside her locker room.


Izzo stayed for the whole game, cheering from a suite, and his players were on their feet on a baseline as were 5,000-plus fans in the stands.


“I’m sure it helped, of course. But is it the reason why they won? No,” McCallie said. “We played very poorly and if you play poorly, you have to give the other team credit.”


As good as they were late, the Spartans looked like they were going to be in trouble early in the game.


They turned the ball over on their first possession and then gave up a 3-pointer to Abby Waner, who returned to the lineup after resting her sprained knee during the first-round rout of Austin Peay.


But the Blue Devils went scoreless for 4 minutes after Waner’s shot and were plagued by turnovers.


Duke had more turnovers (seven) than field goals (five) when Michigan State led by six after surging ahead with a 14-4 run.


Michigan State led 25-20 at halftime.


Duke was determined to turn things around early in the second half led by Black, who scored on an aggressive move in the lane on the opening possession to match the two points she had in the first half.


Then, Black caused a turnover and assisted on Waner’s 3-pointer that tied the game 34 seconds after halftime and helped the Blue Devils go back ahead for the first time since the 12:00 mark of the first half.


Michigan State, though, proved it could take Duke’s best shot by competing the rest of the way in the closely contested game.


“When we come to play, anything can happen,” Johnson said.


-- Iowa St. 71, Ball St. 57—At Bowling Green, Ky., Nicky Wieben scored 18 points as fourth-seeded Iowa State (26-8) held off upset-minded Ball State (26-9) to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time in eight years.


Trenton Regional

-- Connecticut 87, Florida 59—At Storrs, Conn., Renee Montgomery scored 25 points in her final game at home and undefeated Connecticut (35-0) advanced to the regional semifinals for the 16th straight year.


The Huskies will play fourth-seeded California in Trenton, N.J., on Sunday. This is the fourth time that UConn has been undefeated while playing in the NCAA tournament. Connecticut went on to win the national championship in 1995 and 2002. In 1996-97, the Huskies lost to Tennessee in the regional final.


-- Texas A&M 73, Minnesota 42—At South Bend, Ind., Sydney Colson had six steals to pace Texas A&M (27-7) to a season-high 20 and the Aggies forced a season-high 32 turnovers.


Danielle Gant led Texas A&M with 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting, Takia Starks added 17 and Colson had 13. Despite being outsized by Minnesota, the Aggies had a 37-28 rebounding advantage.


Ashley Ellis-Milan scored 15 points to lead the Gophers (20-12), who shot 35 percent.


Raleigh Regional

-- Maryland 71, Utah 56—At College Park, Md., Marissa Coleman had 18 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, Kristi Toliver scored 17, and top-seed Maryland advanced to the regional semifinals.


The Terrapins (30-4) will next play Vanderbilt (26-8) in the semifinals of the Raleigh Regional. Maryland beat the Commodores 80-66 last year in the third round.


-- Baylor 60, South Dakota St. 58—At Lubbock, Texas, Kelli Griffin hit a floater from outside the lane on the right side with 0.5 seconds remaining to lift second-seeded Baylor (29-5) to the regional semifinals.


Griffin scored 21 points to lead Baylor, which trailed for most of the game and rallied from 14 points down in the first half. The Bears, making their fourth trip to the round of 16, will face Louisville in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday.


-- Louisville 62, LSU 52—At Baton Rouge, La., Angel McCoughtry scored 28 points and Louisville advance to its second straight regional semifinal.


Candyce Bingham added 17 points for the third-seeded Cardinals (31-4), who ended sixth-seeded LSU’s bid to reach an unprecedented sixth-straight Final Four.


Oklahoma City Regional

-- Oklahoma 69, Georgia Tech 50—At Iowa City, Iowa, Even though Courtney Paris failed to get a double-double, she still did more than enough to help lead Oklahoma (30-4) get to the regional semifinals.


Danielle Robinson scored 17 points and had seven assists, Whitney Hand added 15 for the top-seeded Sooners.


Oklahoma will now face fourth-seeded Pittsburgh in Oklahoma City on Sunday.



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