Sunday, March 29, 2009

FINAL FOUR: Huskies, Wildcats, Spartans and Tar Heels Head to Motor City

How they got there: Recaps of the Regional Finals

West: (1) Connecticut 82, (3) Missouri 75 - The Huskies were undaunted by Missouri's pressure and built a 13-point lead only to have the Tigers whittle it down and eventually take the lead back, by a point, with less than 6 minutes left. From that point onward, Connecticut stepped up the defense and made shots and freebies when they had to. Missouri continued to try to cut into the advantage, but Kemba Walker and A.J. Price controlled the backcourt tempo for the prevailing Huskies. Walker had the game of his life, outscoring everybody with 23 points while dishing 5 assists and snatching 5 rebounds. Price scored 18 points for UConn, which hit only 2 of 12 3-pointers, turned the ball over 17 times to Missouri's 6, but controlled the paint, outrebounding the Tigers, 47-32.

Midwest: (2) Michigan St. 64, (1) Louisville 52 - Tom Izzo's defensive-minded Spartans limited Louisville to their second-lowest point total of the season ending the Cardinals' 13-game win streak while rewarding themselves with a virtual home game in Detroit at the Final Four. Michigan State's fearless defenders took Louisville out of their game and outhustled them at every opportunity. Louisville shot just 38% (18-47), including a respectable 6-16 from beyond the arc, but the Spartans shot 45% and outdueled Louisville in the paint, grabbing 37 boards to Louisville's 28.

Michigan State's big man, Goran Suton, positioning himself 15 to 18 feet from the basket on offense, kept getting open looks and hitting them, sharing game-high honors with Louisville's Earl Clark at 19 points. Suton also managed to corral 10 rebounds and fed his teammates with 4 assists.

East: (3) Villanova 78, (1) Pittsburgh 76 - This one figured to be close all the way and it was, ending finally on Scottie Reynolds' four-footer in the lane with 1/2 second left. Both teams played their hearts out, but Villanova ended up with the last possession at 8 seconds from the final buzzer and they made their play. There was nothing more Pitt could do to win this game; they were simply one-upped by another team from Pennsylvania. For the Panthers, Sam Young had 28 points to lead all scorers, and deJuan Blair recorded his usual double-double, with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Villanova's scoring was led by Dwayne Anderson with 17, followed by Reynolds with 15 and Dante Cunningham's 15. The Wildcats did everything right, as did Pitt, in the tournament's best-played game. Villanova was actually outshot by the Panthers, 48% to 45%, but the Wildcats won it at the line, hitting 22 of 23 free throws.

South: (1) North Carolina 72, (2) Oklahoma 60 - The much-anticipated mano-a-mano between Tyler Hansbrough and Blake Griffin never really materialized as Hansbrough was saddled with fouls early and had to sit out much of the first half. By the numbers, Griffin outplayed North Carolina's Psycho-T, scoring 23 points with 16 rebounds. Hansbrough had 8 and 6, though Carolina's lead expanded and Griffin's scoring was limited with Hansbrough on the floor.

Otherwise, the game went almost completely north Carolina's way thanks to Ty Lawson and Danny Green. Lawson, virtually unchecked at the point, scored 19 points and had 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Green scored 18 on 6 of 9 shooting. Both players hit 2 of 4 3-pointers.

Once the Tar Heels had established a first half lead of 11 points, they maintained a similar edge throughout most of the remainder of the game. The Sooners were pathetic from outside, missing their first 15 3-point attempts until 5:14 left in the second half when Willie Warren finally splashed one in the middle of a 9-0 late Sooner run. Oklahoma got to within 12 points after the tar Heels had led by as many as 19, but failed to get any closer, going xxx from beyond the arc.

In the semifinal games to be played Saturday, April 4 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, the Connecticut Huskies face Michigan State and the Tar Heels meet Villanova.

The Final will be played Monday night, April 6.

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