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Michigan State holds off Northern Iowa 59-52

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[April 01, 2010]  ST. LOUIS (AP) -- With its star player on the bench in a walking boot, Michigan State needed someone to pull it through another difficult game.

SHardwareophomore Korie Lucious did - again.

Following up on his buzzer-beater in the second round, Lucious hit a whirling, fallaway jumper with 91 seconds left, lifting Michigan State back into the regional finals with a 59-52 win over hard-to-shake Northern Iowa on Friday night in the Midwest Regional.

"He stepping up for us and that's exactly what we need," Michigan State forward Draymond Green said.

Lucious' role became much bigger when Kalin Lucas ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the second round against Maryland. All the sophomore did in that game was hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer.


Against Northern Iowa, Lucious played 39 steady minutes, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals and one big shot that has the Spartans within one game of their sixth Final Four in 12 years.

"It's just from my teammates having the confidence in me to take that shot," Lucious said. "I just try to take it with confidence."

Michigan State had it relatively easy in its previous two trips to the Final Four, its deep, talented teams overwhelming opponents.

This year's team had to survive a whack-a-mole-like season filled with winning streaks, injuries, suspensions and benchings. The Spartans then had to get through a physically-demanding game against a Northern Iowa team that had already taken out the field favorite in Kansas.

Michigan State pulled it out behind Lucious, Durrell Summers' 19 points and by holding the Panthers to 10 free throws and no field goals over the final 10:21 to send the Heartland heroes home.

Always at their best in the NCAA tournament, the Spartans move on to play Sunday against sixth-seeded Tennessee, which beat No. 2 Ohio State 76-73 earlier Friday night.

"It feels great to be back," Michigan State forward Draymond Green said. "We've still got bigger dreams."

The Spartans crushed Northern Iowa's.

The Panthers (30-5) knocked off one college basketball giant but couldn't make it two straight, unable to contain the athletic Spartans for an entire game after stunning top-seeded Kansas in the second round.


Adam Koch had 13 points and Kwadzo Ahelegbe 12 for Northern Iowa, but Ali Farokhmanesh's run came to an end. The early round star was just 1 for 6 from 3-point range and finished with nine points as the Panthers' deepest run in the NCAA tournament came to a close.

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"In some time, they'll have a lot to look back and a lot to be proud of," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. "But not yet."

A few years back, maybe this was a mismatch: the powerhouse from the Big Ten against the scrappy mid-major.

Not this year.

Northern Iowa has done its best to shake the underdog tag, reaching the NCAA tournament five of past seven years, moving into the round of 16 this year for the first time with wins over UNLV and Kansas.

Farokhmanesh ran off the Runnin' Rebels with a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left in the opening round, then topped it with a no-no-no-great-shot! 3 to take out the Jayhawks. The son of an Iranian Olympic volleyball player, Farokhmanesh has become a star back in Cedar Falls, a Stephen Curry-like sensation to the rest of the country.

Of course, all the Panthers have reached a new level of fame, appearing on magazine covers, with fans from all over jumping aboard the purple-powered bandwagon.

"We've had a lot of support from our fans, from our community and we really appreciate that," Koch said.

Michigan State has been the monument of the bracket under Izzo: 13 straight NCAA tournaments, nine trips to the round of 16, seven to the regional finals, five Final Fours, a national title in 2000.

This season has been a little tougher road, punctuated by the injury to Lucas, the Spartans' leading scorer and catalyst.

Michigan State beat Maryland without him, pulled out an eveything-it-had win over Northern Iowa and can now start looking ahead.

"That Final Four, you can finally talk about it," Izzo said. "This is what you play for - at least it's what I play for. It's great when you're working this time of year."

[Associated Press; By JOHN MARSHALL]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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