College Basketball Nation: 2010 NCAA Spokane

Purdue CelebrationSteve Dykes/US PresswirePurdue's Chris Kramer (3) celebrates with teammates after hitting the winning shot with 4.2 seconds left. Kramer, who averages 6.4 points per game and is a defensive specialist, scored 17 points Sunday.

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Chris Kramer looks like a linebacker. He is a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He's Purdue's lock-down defender. We know this because he has his own page in the Boilermakers press release that includes his "Lockdown Chart" and a quote from Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl.

Kramer, Pearl said, "Is the nation's best perimeter defender."

Knowing this, one might wonder if you want to put the ball in his hands late in a game. Say, late in an overtime game in the second round of the NCAA tournament against a big Texas A&M squad that towers over the 6-foot-3, 214 pound senior.

But Kramer walked into the Purdue huddle after a timeout with 10 seconds remaining in OT and asked for the ball.

He got it.

"I had the ball, went right, and then crossed over left," he said, "and then it kind of parted like the Red Sea."

And Kramer drove through that sea -- more maroon than red, really -- for the game-winning layup with four seconds left, lifting Purdue to a 63-61 victory and a second consecutive berth in the Sweet 16.

Kramer, the defensive specialist, scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. And, yes, he added three steals and frustrated whomever he defended.

On the other bench, Texas A&M, a team that plays outstanding defense, was distraught that it lost because it yielded an open run through the lane to a defensive specialist.

"It was kind of a defensive breakdown," said Texas A&M forward Bryan Davis, who led the Aggies with 17 points and 15 rebounds. "I think we had been guarding hard for 44 minutes and that play right there -- I didn't even really expect him to get the ball."

Said A&M coach Mark Turgeon, "Good play by them, aggressive play by a senior. But really disappointing to guard that well and just give up a layup the way we did."

Purdue won despite shooting just six free throws and grabbing five offensive rebounds -- vs. 14 rebounds for the Aggies, who won the battle on the boards 45-39.

Fact is, Purdue coach Matt Painter said, the battle on the glass against the much bigger Aggies went about as well as expected.

"You never want to get outrebounded by six and say it's an accomplishment," he said.

But it was because the Boilermakers found a way to win -- again -- when most saw them as underdogs due to the loss of star Robbie Hummel to a knee injury. First, they were the upset special in the first round against Siena. Second, they were the team that lacked the size to keep up with A&M.

"Today, nobody picked us to win this game either," Painter said. "After a while, I think it really sits with our guys. They really use it for motivation."

The Aggies jumped ahead 40-29 with 15:41 left in the game and were dominating inside. But the Boilermakers rolled up a 14-2 run led by Kramer and JaJuan Johnson and a couple of reserves that transformed the game. From that point on, neither team led by more than five.

Both teams had chances to win in regulation, which ended knotted at 55-55. Johnson blocked a Donald Sloan layup attempt with 31 seconds left. E'Twaun Moore fumbled away the ball on the other end before the Boilermakers could get a shot off.

And, in overtime, before Kramer's drive, Davis lost a battle in the paint with Johnson with 18 seconds left.

Kramer said his special moment had yet to sink in. He also said he's not satisfied.

"You just have to keep dreaming," he said. "That's what coach talked about in the locker room."

Final: Purdue 63, Texas A&M 61 (OT)

March, 21, 2010
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SPOKANE, Wash. -- This was a gritty one. It required extra basketball to decide it.

But Purdue's defensive specialist Chris Kramer drove through the tough Texas A&M defense for a layup with four seconds left in overtime that gave the Boilermakers a 63-61 victory in overtime in the second round of the South regional.

Some thoughts:

  • Both teams showed a lot of balance. No player scored more than 17 points -- which Kramer and A&M's Brian David reached. Seven players reached double figures, four for Purdue.
  • Purdue didn't shoot its first free throw until the 15:41 mark of the first half when it was down 40-29. At that point, Texas A&M had connected on 9 of 14. The Boilermakers ended up shooting 5 of 6 from the line, the Aggies 10 of 17.
  • Texas A&M was 5 of 10 on 3-pointers in the first half. It was zero of seven in the second.
  • Rebounding was a key, as expected. The Aggies won the glass 39-29, but Purdue was able to keep that battle just close enough to win the game.

Halftime: Texas A&M 32, Purdue 25

March, 21, 2010
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SPOKANE, Wash. -- It's all about defense with Texas A&M and Purdue, and the Aggies won the first half of a slug fest 32-25.

Both teams are shooting below 35 percent at the break.

Some thoughts.

  • Rebounding was seen by both coaches as a key to the game, in large part because the Aggies are a lot better at it. That held true in the first half, with Purdue getting outrebounded 23-18.
  • While neither team is shooting well from the field, A&M is hot from 3-point range. It's 5 for 10 from behind the arc, compared to 3 for 9 for Purdue. Naji Hibbert and Donald Sloan both have hit a pair of treys.
  • Stat of the half, which Purdue coach Matt Painter might grumble about: The Boilermakers have yet to shoot a free throw. Texas A&M is 9 of 14 from the line. Purdue has been whistled for 12 fouls, A&M six.
  • Sloan, who leads the Aggies with 18 points per game, scored just 10 in Texas A&M's 69-53 win over Utah State, which ranked fourth on the team. He has eight points and two assists at the break.
  • Purdue's E'Twaun Moore leads all scorers with 11 points, just one fewer than he had in the first round win over Siena.
  • Chris Kramer and JaJuan Johnson both have two fouls for Purdue. They're not in trouble, but it's worth watching because both are critical presences for the Boilermakers.
Corey LuciousSteve Dykes/US PresswireMichigan State's Korie Lucious (34) lines up his dramatic buzzer beater against Maryland.

SPOKANE, Wash. -- It was one of the great comebacks in NCAA tournament history. And then it wasn't.

Maryland trailed Michigan State by nine points with two minutes left. Then it took the lead -- twice -- in the final 35 seconds.

It was stunning.

Yet the final toss of fairy dust turned out to be green.

Korie Lucious, the Spartans backup point guard, playing at the end only because Kalin Lucas was out with a torn Achilles tendon, ripped a fade-away 3-pointer at the buzzer and Michigan State escaped with an 85-83 victory in the second round of the Midwest Regional.

It was stunning, take 2. As breathless a final two minutes as you'll see.

Heartbreak?

"It seemed like we were going to win the game and then it was taken away from us," said a stricken Maryland coach Gary Williams.

And euphoria: The Michigan State players piled on Lucious after his game-winner. Even Sparty joined the fray.

"Time was running out," Lucious said. "I just tried to get it up and it went in."

Spartans coach Tom Izzo is now 15-3 in second-round games as his team tries to reach its sixth Final Four in 12 seasons.

The Spartans dominated 38 minutes of the game. They did so with Lucas out the entire second half -- he's likely done for the tournament -- with fellow starting guard Chris Allen only able to play four minutes with a sprained foot and with forward Delvon Roe nursing bum knees.

It was another plot twist in a season that has been all over the place. From high rankings to player suspensions, to critical injuries and inconsistent play to -- now -- a third consecutive Sweet 16.

"Three weeks ago, we wouldn't have won this game," said Draymond Green, who thought he might have shot the game winner when he hit a jumper for an 82-81 lead with 20 seconds left.

But after Green's shot, Maryland raced down the court and Greivis Vasquez, who struggled against the physical defense of Raymar Morgan much of the afternoon, nailed a short jumper with six seconds left that put the Terrapins up 83-82.

Vasquez scored seven of his 26 points over the final 1:27.

"We had the game won for a moment," said Maryland's Eric Hayes, who scored 18 points with seven assists.

Only for a moment. The Spartans controlled the vast majority of the contest because they dominated the boards -- outrebounding Maryland 42-24 -- and their lone remaining starting guard, Durrell Summers was lights out.

Summers, who's been in Izzo's doghouse at various times this year, scored 26 points, hitting 6-of-7 from 3-point range. It's the season scoring high for any Spartan player.

"Durrell, he grew up a lot in the last two weeks," Izzo said.

He and the Spartans appear to be maturing at exactly the right time.

Photoblog: Spartans celebrate

March, 21, 2010
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Korie Lucious Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesKorie Lucious and Michigan State celebrate after Lucious' last-minute 3-pointer sends the Spartans to the Sweet 16.
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Michigan State was up by nine points with two minutes left. The Spartans had dominated the entire game.

And then things went completely bonkers.

Maryland went on a 10-0 run to take the lead with 36 seconds left.

Draymond Green jumper gave the Spartans back the lead with 20 seconds left.

A drive from Greivis Vasquez took it back for Maryland with six seconds left.

And -- with both sides of the arena staring in disbelief -- sophomore guard Korie Lucious, who was filling in for the injured Kalin Lucas, ripped a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave Michigan State an 85-83 victory in the second round of the Midwest Regional.

A moment. I need to catch my breath.

First, how many programs can beat a quality team in the NCAA tourney with two starting guards out with injuries?

Maybe the sort of team that's headed to its third straight Sweet 16, whose coach is 15-3 in second-round games and has made five Final Fours in 11 seasons.

That would be Tom Izzo and Michigan State, which looked every bit like a threat to make another Final Four.

Some thoughts:

  • Michigan State played the entire second half without two-time All-Big Ten point guard Lucas, who reinjured his ankle in the first half. Guard Chris Allen only played four minutes -- one in the second half -- due to a sprained foot. The only remaining healthy staring guard did a fairly good job picking up the slack: Durrell Summers scored 26 points, hitting six of eight 3-pointers.
  • The Spartans dominated the boards, outrebounding the Terrapins 33-20.
  • Lucious deserves plenty of credit, and not just because of his final shot. With Lucas and Allen out, he became the primary ball-handler. While the Terps full-court press gave the Spartans some trouble, Lucious did a solid job running the offense and finished with 13 points and two assists.
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Michigan State leads Maryland 48-39 at the half, but it may be without floor leader Kalin Lucas, who scored his first basket with 4:27 before the break, but then re-injured his sprained ankle on the ensuing Maryland possession.

Lucas, who had a career-high 25 points in the first-round win, couldn't put any weight on the ankle.

The Spartans came out in a frenzy, and it took a while for Maryland to match the pace, but the Terrapins woke up and it's hard to believe this one won't be still in question in the waning moments, particularly if Lucas can't return.

Some thoughts:

  • Michigan State jumped ahead 22-10 with a dominating early run. The Spartans were 9-of-14 from the field -- Maryland was 3-of-13 -- and outrebounded the Terrapins 10-3. The Spartans had three blocked shots -- zero for the Terps.
  • Lucas wasn't the only star who started slowly. Maryland's Greivis Vasquez didn't score until the 12:42 mark. Freshman Jordan Williams, who posted twin career-highs with 21 points and 17 rebounds in the win over Houston, didn't get his first bucket until the 7:22 mark. Vasquez ended up with nine points at the break and Williams had seven and four rebounds.
  • Michigan State guard Chris Allen, typically a starter, didn't enter the game until the 10:16 mark. Allen injured his foot against New Mexico State. He played just three minutes and didn't score.
  • Maryland is losing the battle on the glass. The Spartans have a 25-11 rebounding advantage.
  • The Spartans have nine turnovers, Maryland has four.
  • Raymar Morgan leads the Spartans with 13 points. Durrell Summers has 12. Eric Hayes, who hit two of the Terps' four 3-pointers, has 10 points and three assists.
  • Midway through the half, a frustrated Vasquez sought out an official and said, "Both sides, both sides. Call it physical on both sides."

MSU's Allen not in starting lineup

March, 21, 2010
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SPOKANE, Wash. -- Michigan State guard Chris Allen, who sprained his foot in the first-round win over New Mexico State, is not in the starting lineup.

The Spartans typically use a three-guard lineup, but forward Delvon Roe replaced Allen in the starting lineup.

Michigan St. guards ready to start

March, 21, 2010
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SPOKANE, Wash. -- Michigan State guards Chris Allen and Kalin Lucas are both listed as starters for this afternoon's second-round Midwest regional game with Maryland, and both seem to be running well during warmups.

Lucas aggravated a sprained ankle in the first-round matchup with New Mexico State. Allen suffered a sprained arch in his foot in the game and didn't practice on Saturday.

Turgeon's theory on tourney upsets

March, 21, 2010
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SPOKANE, Wash. -- Why so many upsets? Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon has a theory.

He has been on both sides: upstart and favorite. He built his coaching résumé at Jacksonville State and Wichita State and now coaches a perennial tournament team in the Big 12.

In 2006, he led the Shockers to their first Sweet 16 in 25 years, beating Seton Hall and No. 2-seed Tennessee in the process.

The hard part at the mid-major is getting good players who can get you into the tournament, he said. The hard part with major conference teams is keeping a team focused and loose amid hype and high expectations.

"I know how hard it is at that level to get involved with good players and then how hard it is just to get into the tournament," he said. "But I will say this: Once you're in, you're much more relaxed at that level than you are with a BCS team. Because [a BCS team is] supposed to win. I just remember being so relaxed and so calm when I was with Wichita State and how much fun it was to play in those games. ... [There's] a lot less pressure on those schools when they get into these tournament games."

Turgeon suggested that major-conference teams that are typically successful come tournament time are able to stay loose and enjoy the event instead of fretting the embarrassment of a potential upset.

"You try to coach that way at this level, too," he said. "I think I've done a good job [of that]. It's helped me when I got here."

Previewing Sunday in Spokane

March, 21, 2010
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SPOKANE, Wash. -- A look at Sunday's second-round games in Spokane.

SOUTH Regional

No. 5 Texas A&M (24-9) vs. No. 4 Purdue (28-5)

Storyline: Both teams shot well and played tough defense in their first-round game. Neither got -- nor needed -- a big performance from their leading scorer. Might Texas A&M's Donald Sloan and Purdue's E'Twaun Moore make their presences felt in round two?

What to watch Boilermakers: Moore scored 12 points in the 72-64 win over Siena. He averages 16.4 points per game. JaJuan Johnson played the lead in the first round, scoring 23 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. A problem: Siena outrebounded Purdue 45-38. Texas A&M is a good rebounding team, so the Boilermakers need to step up on the glass. Purdue has won 22 straight when scoring more than 70 points. The Aggies hold foes to 64.5 ppg.

What to watch Aggies: Sloan, who leads the Aggies with 18 points per game, scored just 10 in Texas A&M's 69-53 win over Utah State, which ranked fourth on the team. Freshman Khris Middleton has become a key scoring option on the perimeter. He led the Aggies with 19 points and made 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Over the last four games, he's averaged 16.3 points and made 11-of-19 from 3-point range.

They said it: "When [Texas A&M is] shooting the ball well, they're a very, very tough team to beat because of what they do defensively," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "They have size, they have athleticism, they have guys who can break you down. It's going to be important for us with their size and our lack of size that we stay out of foul trouble."

MIDWEST

No. 5 Michigan State (25-8) vs. No. 4 Maryland (24-8)

Storyline: This looks like a classic matchup of a high-powered offense vs. a rugged defense. In the past eight games, Michigan State has held foes to 39 percent shooting and 60.2 ppg. Maryland averages 79 ppg and shoots 47 percent from the field. It also will be interesting to see if Spartans guards Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen, who are nursing ankle and foot injuries, can play and play effectively.

What to watch Terrapins: Freshman Jordan Williams posted twin career-highs with 21 points and 17 rebounds in the 89-77 win over Houston, while Landon Milbourne chipped in 19 points and seven rebounds. Those contributions allowed ACC player of the year Greivis Vasquez to take a secondary role. The Terps dominated the boards against Houston with a 50-29 advantage but they are not typically a great rebounding team. Vasquez needs five points to eclipse Len Bias and move into second place behind Juan Dixon on Maryland's career scoring list.

What to watch Spartans: Lucas scored a career-high 25 points in the 70-67 win over New Mexico State. The Spartans have outrebounded foes in 25 of 33 games (three ties). Over the past six games, Raymar Morgan is averaging 16.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, both team highs. Spartans coach Tom Izzo is 14-3 in second-round games and all three losses came to No. 1 seeds.

The said it: "I think we're pretty much past that point where [Coach Izzo is] frustrated," said Michigan State forward Draymond Green when asked why the Spartans have so frustrated Izzo this season. "It's one and done time. We have pretty much wiped our slate clean of everything that went on in the regular season. We're all working together as a team now."

Texas A&M has advantage on boards

March, 20, 2010
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SPOKANE, Wash. -- Both Purdue and Texas A&M play good defense. Both turned in workmanlike efforts while dispatching dangerous mid-major foes in the first round of the South Regional.

But there's one number that doesn't look good for Purdue and a lot of folks noticed it: Siena outrebounded the Boilermakers 45-38.

Therein lies perhaps the linchpin of the Boilermakers second-round matchup with the Aggies. Purdue owns a negative rebounding margin this season (-0.7), while Texas A&M is solidly on the positive side (+2.4).

"We have had a couple of games here in the past three weeks where we have really struggled to rebound," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "When we have been competitive on the glass, we've won. It's been that simple for us."

The Boilermakers weren't a great rebounding team most of the season, and they got even smaller when 6-foot-8 Robbie Hummel went down with a knee injury on Feb. 24. Hummel was second on the team with 6.9 rebounds per game.

The Aggies, who are 20-2 when they outrebound an opponent, will be much longer than Purdue. They start three players who are 6-foot-7 or taller. Purdue's center JaJuan Johnson is 6-10. The other four starters are 6-4 or shorter.

It's going to take tenacity to counteract that physical advantage, a fact acknowledged in the Purdue locker room.

"[Rebounding] is critical to every part of our game, so I think we really have to buckle in early and match that tone for [Johnson]," Purdue guard Lewis Jackson said. "We know that he is going to be big on the boards, but the guards need to get some of the rebounds."

Making Purdue's task even tougher is the emergence of Aggies freshman wing Khris Middleton. He led his team with 19 points against Utah State and made 5 of 6 from 3-point range. Over the last four games, he's averaged 16.3 points and made 11 of 19 from 3-point range.

So that gives A&M, a team that struggled from behind the arc much of the season, a 6-7 presence extending a defense on the perimeter.

Aggies coach Mark Turgeon agreed that rebounding will be a critical element of the game. What coach wouldn't say that?

But he seemed taken by Purdue's toughness, something he believes his team also possesses.

"You got two tough teams," he said. "Who is going to be tougher tomorrow at 2 o'clock? That's what it's going to come down to."
SPOKANE, Wash.-- Michigan State's season has been tumultuous, but coach Tom Izzo has spent the past three days telling reporters he likes where his team is at present.

"I'm feeling good about my team right now," he said during a Saturday news conference before his fifth-seeded squad squares off with No. 4 Maryland on Sunday in the second round of the Midwest Regional.

[+] EnlargeKalin Lucas
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesKalin Lucas "tweaked" his ankle while scoring 25 points against New Mexico State in the first round.
So it's all good. Except for the bad stuff, which now includes injuries to two of his starting guards.

Point Kalin Lucas "tweaked" -- Izzo's word -- his ankle during the Spartans first-round win over New Mexico State, a game in which Lucas scored a career-high 25 points. Lucas initially sprained his ankle in early February.

Lucas re-entered the game against New Mexico State and he practiced Saturday. He downplayed the injury, telling reporters he was 100 percent.

Said Izzo, "I wouldn't say he's a 100 percent."

That's certainly not the case with Chris Allen, who was writhing in pain in front of the Spartans' bench when he got hurt against the Aggies.

Allen didn't practice. Izzo said the injury isn't an ankle but a "sprained arch."

"It's what makes you run and jump," he said. "And it's a real difficult injury to tape, unlike a badly sprained ankle."

It's never good to have your two-time All-Big Ten point guard and best 3-point shooter hurt, but the Terrapins love to run and press and feature multi-talented guard Greivis Vasquez, the ACC Player of the Year, whom both Lucas and Allen likely would have guarded at various times.

"If [Allen] doesn't play, that's going to definitely hamper [the game plan] some," Izzo said.

Allen told reporters he's going to play. "It's not hurting as bad as it was and I feel pretty good about it," he said.

At least one person seems to believe Allen: Maryland coach Gary Williams, who said the Terrapins game plan won't be altered by reports. At least not yet.

"One thing I've learned is you don't even think about that until you get out there and start playing," he said. "There's been too many times where guys supposedly have been hurt and all of a sudden they get 20 against you."

Even if Allen and Lucas do play, they'll likely see plenty of pressure from the Terrapins, who like to press. New Mexico State switched to a man-to-man defense and pressed the Spartans in the second half Friday and had some success slowing down a Spartans offense that had been humming along.

"I think that wore us down a little bit," Izzo said.

A caveat Maryland fans: It is possible that Izzo is playing a little opossum. He seemed fairly eager to embrace the underdog role, even though his Spartans played in the Final Four last year.

And there's this: He's 14-3 in second-round games, with all three losses coming vs. No. 1 seeds.

As a skeptical Williams said, "We'll see how it goes."
SPOKANE, Wash. -- When the season started, Maryland coach Gary Williams didn't really know what to make of 6-foot-10, 260-pound freshman Jordan Williams.

"I wasn't sure how much he was going to play," Gary Williams said. "But we needed someone inside to take up some room."

[+] EnlargeJordan Williams
Steve Dykes/US PresswireMaryland freshman Jordan Williams powered his way to 21 points and 17 rebounds.
Williams took up some room in his first NCAA tournament game: He earned a space on the list of "best performances of the first round."

Williams scored a career-high 21 points and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds in Maryland's 89-77 win over Houston.

The two games before his tourney debut? Williams scored a combined 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He averaged 9.2 points and 8.3 rebounds this year.

So this was a bit of a "Hello world" moment.

Jordan Williams said he tried to force things in the ACC tournament loss to Georgia Tech and he struggled. So he went with a different approach here.

"I just let the game come to me," he said.

His goal was simple: "I want to get every rebound."

That notion sounds like it might have originated from Terrapins star Greivis Vasquez, who has taken Williams under his wing.

"He really pushes Jordan," Gary Williams said.

Maryland earned a date Sunday with Michigan State. Williams won't sneak up on the Spartans, a much stronger rebounding team than the Cougars.

But Williams still figures to try to take up some room again.

Final: Maryland 89, Houston 77

March, 20, 2010
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SPOKANE, Wash. -- The star didn't lead Maryland to a workmanlike 89-77 win over Houston. It was the wily veteran who doesn't want to say goodbye and the young guy ready to say hello.

With ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez mostly operating as a floor manager, senior Landon Milbourne and freshman Jordan Williams spearheaded the effort.

Williams finished with a career-high 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds -- the day's high total cleaning the glass -- while Milbourne chipped in 19 points and seven boards.

Some thoughts.

  • Houston couldn't stop Maryland from scoring in large part because it got whipped on the boards. The Terrapins finished with a 47 to 27 advantage in rebounding. One word: dominant.
  • Houston's Aubrey Coleman finished with 26 points, the season average for the nation's leading scorer. The Cougars also got 24 points from Kelvin Lewis.
  • Vasquez didn't exactly have a bad night. He scored 16 points, pulled down seven boards and dished six assists.
  • Maryland has won 10 of its last 11 games. It also has won 10 consecutive NCAA tournament first round games.
  • Maryland coach Gary Williams and Houston coach Tom Penders entered the game tied for fifth among active Division I coaches with 648 victories. Williams is now alone in fifth.

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