NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Final 09

     
University of Louisville versus Michigan State
Rick Pitino Vs Tom Izzo
 
 

 






Korie Lucious handles the press
This was a matchup of not only two good teams, but also the first ever meeting of two great coaches. The Louisville team was athletic with a balanced offensive attack and good pressing defense. Michigan State was a deep and tough defensive team with no big name stars. Although Rick Pitino’s Louisville team was favored to win, Michigan’s states tough play and ability to handle the press allowed them to pull away in the second half to complete the upset. 
    On Paper, this Louisville team looked like it should have been able to handle the Spartans. It was deep and had at least two NBA talents in Terrence Williams and Earl Clark. The back court was comprised of a 4 man rotation of above average guards that complemented each other and the Front Court was loaded with big bodies. Michigan State was a talented team as well, very deep and certainly above average at most positions. They weren't flashy and they didn't have any big name stars, but there strengths were teamwork and toughness.


 







Terrance Williams drives to the basket 
The first half was a good back and forth battle that never saw either team takes a big lead or exert its dominance. The Cards tried to attack the interior with their big men, but the Spartan defense stopped them cold which led to a few turnovers. Michigan State’s offense faired little better and was kept alive by the soft shoot touch of Goran Suton who made several tough shots. Louisville on the other hand, stayed in the game with some key three point makes and the strong offensive play or Earl Clark. Although Louisville’s twin centers Somardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings were stymied by the Spartan defense, Earl Clark was able work outside and attack the mid range to provide much of Louisville first half offense.

 








Earl Clark shoots free throws 
For Louisville fans, the close first half was not too alarming since they had often been behind in the first half only to charge ahead to start the second period. But there were some ominous developments that were easy to ignore. Izzo’s team was handling the full court press and they were playing rough with the cardinals by liberally fouling and applying a physical defense. At halftime, the Cardinals fans were looking forward to an early second half blitz that they had become accustomed to, but they would soon be disappointed.
 The second half started with a burst of defensive energy by the Cardinals that led to a couple of quick scores. But, Izzo quickly called a timeout and seemingly defused the blitz because the Spartans would soon start to take control. One of Louisville’s main strengths all year was causing and capitalizing off of turnovers, but early in the second half Michigan State would give them a dose of their own medicine. The Cardinals appeared frustrated by Michigan States tough man to man defense and gave up several offensive turnovers and rebounds that led to points on the other end of the floor. The relentless and physical Spartan defense lead to easy points throughout the second half, while Louisville’s press caused very little disruption to the Michigan State attack. The depth of the Spartans prevented them from becoming fatigued and a Louisville run never occurred. The game was pretty much over midway through the second half. 









Travis Walton hits a 3 in the 2nd half 
There did appear to be some jitters for the Cardinals who had lost in last years Regional final to North Carolina. This year they had vowed to play stronger and get to the final four, but early on, some key players looked nervous. Terrence Williams had a couple of bad early shots including one uncharacteristic air ball from 3 point land. Perhaps more influential in the final outcome of the game was strong play of the Spartans and the Tom Izzo’s game plan. One of Louisville’s documented weaknesses was in foul shooting percentage and it appeared as though Izzo was trying to take advantage of that weakness by having Michigan State foul liberally during Louisville Offensive sets. In the second half, Louisville couldn’t mount a comeback or run because they were kept off balance offensively and couldn’t connect on enough free throw attempts to maintain scoring parity with Michigan State. 


In the battle of the Coaches, Izzo wins round one with a good team performance and a solid game plan. Hopefully, these two coaches will meet again so we can see who wins round two.

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