On Friday, he led them to a spot in the NCAA Tournament's Elite
Eight by scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in Michigan
State's 61-59 win over the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers in the East
Regional semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
The fourth-seeded Spartans (29-8) face Connecticut in the regional
finals on Sunday.
Dawson averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in five postseason
games for the Spartans, including the Big Ten tournament. He missed
nine games with the injury before returning March 1.
"It was tough on me just watching those guys play," said Dawson of
his time away. "I knew I had to play like a man when I came back."
He recorded his first double-double since coming back.
Forward Adreian Payne added 16 points for the Spartans. Payne and
Dawson accounted for 11 of the Spartans' final 15 points of the
Payne's two free throws with 33 seconds to go put the Spartans ahead
58-54 before guard Travis Trice sank two from the line for a 60-56
Cavaliers guard Malcolm Brogdon hit a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds
Brogdon and Harris led the Cavaliers with 17 points apiece.
Payne drilled a 3-pointer to put the Spartans ahead 54-51 and a
Dawson alley-oop made it 56-51 with 53 seconds left to play.
Virginia guard Justin Anderson's 3-pointer from the right corner
tied the game at 51 with 1:42 to play.
"These two guys (Payne and Dawson) both shot well from the line and
rebounded well," said Spartans coach Tom Izzo. "To Branden's credit,
I think he's gotten better since he came back."
Payne was 4-for-4 from the line and Dawson finished 6-for-8.
The Spartans went five minutes without scoring until a Dawson dunk
with 13:27 to play drew Michigan State to within two points at
36-34. That was the start of an 11-4 run that gave the Spartans a
43-40 edge with 9:18 to play.
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"(Branden) Dawson presents a challenge because he's versatile and he
plays through contact," said Brogdon. "He's able to get to the rim."
Michigan State led throughout the majority of the first half. A dunk
by the Spartans' Gary Harris and a jumper from Dawson broke a 27-all tie with
1:07 to go, giving Michigan State a 31-27 lead at the break.
Virginia trailed 23-13 with 9:01 left in the half, then went on a
7-0 run to cut the Spartans lead to 23-20 with 6:13 remaining.
Harris scored five of those points.
"I told the guys not to hang their heads," said Virginia coach Tony
Bennett. "Dawson was the difference. He created matchup problems."
NOTES: Virginia is making its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1995.
... The Cavaliers rank first in the country in scoring defense at
55.5 ppg. ... Coach Tom Izzo has led Michigan State to six Final
Fours, including the 2000 national championship. This is Izzo's
sixth team to reach the round of 16 in the last seven years. ... The
East Regional games are the first NCAA Tournament games played at
Madison Square Garden since 1961. ... The last meeting between the
two schools ended in an 82-75 Michigan State win in 2002. ... This
is the fourth time in school history that Virginia is a No. 1 seed
(1981, 1982 and 1983). ... The Cavaliers finished first in the ACC
in field-goal percentage (.386) and rebounding margin (6.2). ...
Going into the East Regional semifinal, the Cavaliers had held 23
straight teams below 50 percent shooting from the field.
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