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Spartans' defense shines in slugfest

NEW YORK -- Tom Izzo has spent most of this season feeling more like Job than a basketball coach. The much-documented, medical-ward Spartans have tried him like no team he has had before.

There were times, he's admitted, when he wondered how his team would get through it, times he wondered why in the world this was all happening to him and his team.

He may have gotten his answer with 91 seconds left in a tightly wound, expertly played Sweet 16 game against Virginia.

The Cavaliers, a team that came to New York with doubters and left with converts, had just tied the game at 51 when Justin Anderson hit his only bucket of the game, a 3-pointer from the corner.

Izzo called timeout.

Except his team did the talking.

"We were just telling him to relax,'' Denzel Valentine said. "We said, 'We got this.' We had been in this position before. We weren't rattled.''

This was a game that frayed the nerves, a heavyweight bout where every possession felt like a game-winner, every miss a disaster.

Yet there were the Spartans, cool as cucumbers. They have been through hell this season, their season all but hijacked by broken bones and pulled muscles. Michigan State has played 37 games this season. For 31 of them, the Spartans were still trying to figure out who they were.

Read the rest of the story here.