N.C. State 69, Michigan State 58
Posted March 15, 2002 1:43 a.m. EST
WASHINGTON, D.C. — North Carolina State didn't make so much as a single jump shot in the first half. Then, at halftime, coach Herb Sendek solved Michigan State's defense.
Their perimeter-backdoor game held to a season-low 18 points in the first half, the Wolfpack took the ball straight to the basket in the second and beat the Spartans 69-58 Friday in an East Regional opener.
The loss ended Michigan State's streak of three straight Final Four appearances, including the 2000 national championship.
Freshman Ilian Evtimov, sent out to start the second half by Sendek, scored 10 of his 12 points after the break for the seventh-seeded Wolfpack (23-10), who overcame a 12-point halftime deficit in their first NCAA tournament game in 11 years.
Another freshman, Julius Hodge, scored 16 points. That helped compensate for leading scorer Anthony Grundy, who scored 16 points but sat out most of the second half because of foul trouble.
Chris Hill scored 21 points, and Marcus Taylor had 18 on just 5-for-22 shooting for the 10th-seeded Spartans (19-12).
With the Spartans' guards waiting for them at the 3-point line, the Wolfpack were smothered as they tried to run their offense in the first half. The backdoor was closed, outside shots were contested, and all their points came from layups, runners in the paint and foul shots.
The Spartans closed the first half with an 8-0 run to take a 30-18 lead. The Wolfpack were 6-for-24 from the field, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
But Evtimov became a major player in the second half. Rather than look for the backdoor or the outside shot, the Wolfpack drove to the paint and produced four three-point plays in the second half. They started the half with an 11-2 run, going 5-for-5 from the field and forcing three turnovers in Michigan State's first five possessions.
Hodge converted back-to-back three-point plays to tie the score at 37, and Scooter Sherrill followed with two free throws to give N.C. State its first lead since 6-5.
Meanwhile, the Spartans couldn't figure out how to score on the Wolfpack's aggressive defense. Open shots were few and far between, and the deficit was as big as 13 before consecutive 3-pointers by Hill and Taylor cut the lead to 60-55 with 2:21 remaining.
But the Wolfpack went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes to stop the comeback.