March 22, 2010

Morgan the glue in win over Maryland

SPOKANE, Wash. - If Michigan State advances no further in the NCAA Tournament, most Spartans fans will probably still look at the 2009-2010 as a success.

Despite some of the difficulties faced by Tom Izzo's ballclub during year, the Spartans found a way to repeat as Big Ten champions. And during the first-two rounds of the NCAA tournament, Spartan players showed the type of resiliency, fight, and ability to overcome adversity that Izzo has spent the entire season trying coax out of the team.

The Spartans faced a season's worth of hurdles against Maryland. They lost star guard Kalin Lucas, and the team's best perimeter defender, Chris Allen, played just four minutes against the Terrapins. The Spartans had another obstacle when Draymond Green and Durrell Summers picked up their fourth fouls within a minute of each other at the 6:47 and 6:19 mark in the second half. With Summers and Green in foul trouble, Michigan State was forced to play walk-ons Austin Thornton and Mike Kebler.

No Lucas, Allen, Summers, and Green led to bizarre personnel groups and nearly allowed Maryland to come from behind to beat Michigan State. The one constant, however, for the Spartans was Raymar Morgan, who delivered one of the best performances of his Spartan career. The senior even found a way to stay on the court after getting one of his teeth knocked out by a Maryland player's elbow.

Morgan's heroic performance set the table for, Korie Lucious to create one of the more indelible moments from a 2009-2010 tournament that has had more drama during the first weekend of play than usual.
At the podium after the game, Morgan was almost too fatigued to smile. He gave Lucious credit for bailing him out for a turnover that was followed by a 3-pointer by Greivis Vasquez that brought Maryland within a point of the Spartans, 80-79, with 90 seconds remaining in the game.

"It was devastating," said Morgan, 'especially with me turning it over. But I just got to thank my teammates for picking me up and Korie hitting the big shot."

Morgan was disappointed with his turnovers down the stretch, but Izzo made sure to point out that those turnovers in no way diminished a timeless performance by Morgan, who will play in the third Sweet 16 of his Michigan State career.

"Ray did a great job," said Izzo. "Ray did a heck of a job, he had to cover a guard who's been playing the four, he had nine rebounds, he had 17 points, you can look at the turnovers, blame them on me, I'm the one that put him in that situation, not him."

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