Spartans Accomplish Mission
INDIANAPOLIS - Even before Michigan State's first game of the season, Coach Tom Izzo gathered his players and spelled out their goal. "Ford Field," he wrote on a dry-erase board. That part of the Motown mission is now complete. The Spartans gave the Final Four a hometown feel, stopping overall No. 1 seed Louisville 64-52 Sunday to win the Midwest Region.Goran Suton had 19 points and 10 rebounds as the second-seeded Spartans (30-6) played the pace game to perfection and reached their fifth Final Four in 11 years - the most trips of any team in the nation during that span. Only 90 miles from their campus in East Lansing, the Spartans will play Connecticut on Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit. A crowd of 72,000, the largest ever for college basketball's signature event, is expected for each game. "Detroit, here we come," said Izzo, a Michigan native. "I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that." The Spartans made it 30 years after Magic Johnson led them to a national title over Larry Bird and Indiana State. "Detroit needs something, Michigan needs something to feel good about," said Johnson, who was at the game. "And right now, the whole state is feeling good about this Michigan State team." Along with advancing, the Spartans prevented a Big East blitz in the Final Four - Coach Rick Pitino and Louisville (31-6) were trying to become the third school from the power-packed conference to make it. "They were the better team," Louisville's Terrence Williams said. "They were quicker than us, their defense was more physical and we couldn't turn them over like we wanted to." Next week's short trip will be a special treat for many Spartans - eight Michigan residents are on the roster. Michigan has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates and Detroit's economy, which is heavily reliant on the flailing auto-making industry, has been reeling. The team is certainly aware of the state's plight. "I'm just hoping we're a silver lining in what's been kind of a cloudy year for us," Izzo said. "I'm hoping that we're the sunshine, I'm hoping we're something to embrace." After traveling to Indianapolis, Minneapolis and back to Indianapolis the last three weekends, the Spartans showed their zeal at the end. Exuberant players were hugging with more than a minute to go, and as the buzzer sounded, Isaiah Dahlman tossed the ball high into the air as players and coaches jumped for joy, then took part in a group hug just in front of the bench. The game went nothing like Louisville expected. Its vaunted pressure defense produced no fastbreak points. After committing nine turnovers in Friday's 39-point rout over Arizona, the Cardinals matched that total in 18 minutes Sunday. They opened the game on a scoring drought that lasted nearly four minutes.