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College men's basketball: Michigan State outlasts Louisville to reach Final Four

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- In an NCAA Tournament East Regional championship game featuring the Masters of March Madness, Michigan State's Tom Izzo wrestled the "Mr. March '15" title away from Louisville's Rick Pitino.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - In an NCAA Tournament East Regional championship game featuring the Masters of March Madness, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo wrestled the “Mr. March ’15” title away from Louisville’s Rick Pitino.
Junior guard Bryn Forbes scored Michigan State’s first five points in overtime as the seventh-seeded Spartans outlasted the fourth-seeded Cardinals 76-70 Sunday afternoon at the Carrier Dome.
In the Final Four on Saturday, Michigan State (27-11) will face Duke, who beat Gonzaga in Sunday’s South Regional championship game.
It will be the seventh Final Four for Izzo, who is now 21-4 in the second game of an NCAA Tournament weekend and 13-9 in the NCAA Tournament when Michigan State is the lower seed - the most lower-seeded victories in NCAA history.
Forbes’ 3-pointer from the corner - his third 3-pointer of the second half - broke a 65-65 deadlock and he sank two free throws to boost Michigan State’s lead to 70-66.
Louisville pulled within two on senior forward Wayne Blackshear’s two free throws, but senior forward Branden Dawson’s putback on a Forbes’ 3-point miss and senior guard Travis Trice’s two free throws iced the win for the Spartans.
Pitino (722 wins) and Izzo (495) have combined for 1,217 career wins, 14 Final Fours and three national championships. Pitino was looking for his 11th Final Four overall and third in the last four years.
Trice led the Spartans with 17 points, while junior guard Denzel Valentine added 15 points and Dawson grabbed 11 rebounds.
Blackshear led all scorers with 28 points, and junior forward Montrezl Harrell chipped in with 16 for Louisville.
Trailing 61-55, the Cardinals (27-9) pulled within three on a 3-point play that included Blackshear’s layup and freshman guard Dillon Avare’s free throw after Blackshear was knocked woozy on the play. Blackshear returned and sank a 3-pointer from the wing to slice Michigan State’s lead to 63-62 with about 1 1/2 minutes remaining.
Blackshear’s two free throws gave the Cardinals a 64-63 lead, but Michigan State freshman forward Marvin Clark sank a left-handed scoop shot to give the Spartans a one-point advantage. Louisville sophomore center Mangok Mathiang had a chance to give the Cardinals the lead in the closing seconds, but he made only one of two free throws to knot the score at 65.
The Spartans opened the second half on a 9-2 run to pull within one. Dawson completed a 3-point play, and junior forward Matt Costello hit a basket and two free throws to slice the Cardinals’ lead to 42-41.
Louisville’s Blackshear sank seven consecutive free throws, including three after getting fouled on a 3-point shot, to boost Louisville’s lead back to six, 49-43. But Michigan State went on a 14-2 run to take a 57-51 lead. That spurt included two 3-pointers from the corner by Forbes and another 3-pointer by Trice.
After shooting 53 percent in the first half, the Cardinals went ice cold in the second half. In the first 13 minutes of the second half, Louisville’s only field goals were only layups by sophomore guard Terry Rozier. The Cardinals’ only other points in that stretch were Blackshear’s free throws.
Louisville led 40-32 at the half after closing on a 21-10 run in the final eight minutes.
Valentine sank a 3-pointer to give the Spartans a 22-19 lead, but Rozier ignited the Louisville run with a three-point play.
Blackshear scored nine of the Cardinals’ next 13 points as he made three consecutive 3-pointers. Rozier’s steal and layup boosted Louisville’s lead to 37-32, and Mathiang’s free throw and freshman forward Jaylen Johnson’s rebound basket increased the margin to 40-32.
Harrell scored 10 of Louisville’s first 17 points and finished with 12 in the first half. Blackshear also scored 12 in the first half, while Trice (10 points) and Valentine (nine) paced the Spartans.
NOTES: Michigan State and Louisville have now played three times in the NCAA Tournament since 2009. They split the first two meetings, with the Spartans winning in the 2009 Elite Eight and Louisville winning in the 2012 Sweet 16. ... Entering Sunday’s games, Rick Pitino (.757, 53-17) and Tom Izzo (.738, 45-16) ranked second and sixth among active coaches for the best NCAA Tournament winning percentage. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski ranked first at .766 (85-26). ... Louisville senior F Wayne Blackshear became the third Louisville player to participate in three regional championship games, joining Milt Wagner and Rodney McCray. ... In Friday’s Sweet 16 win over Oklahoma, Michigan State junior G Denzel Valentine became the 48th player in Spartans history to score 1,000 career points and the fourth to do it this season, along with senior F Branden Dawson, senior G Travis Trice and junior G Bryn Forbes.

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