History did not repeat itself for a third time, and for that the University of Cincinnati is grateful.
In each of the last two seasons, Michigan State overcame 18-point deficits to beat the Bearcats on last-second shots.
The stage was set for it to happen again Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Midwest Regional when Cincinnati went up by 17 points in the first half.
Only this time, there was no miracle comeback by Michigan State, as the Bearcats fought off two second-half charges by the Spartans to win, 77-65.
“Our kids came in with a lot of confidence because we felt we could have won the game in East Lansing,” said Cincinnati Coach Bob Huggins, whose team lost, 90-89, at Michigan State in December when the Spartans’ Kris Weshinskey sank a three-point shot with six seconds to play.
Anthony Buford, who led the way with 21 points, said the Great Midwest Conference champion Bearcats (27-4) never believed Michigan State could come back and win again.
“We really didn’t think about that,” he said.
After the Bearcats built a 37-20 lead, the Spartans, true to form, came back to within 42-35 at halftime.
If the Bearcats weren’t thinking about yet another collapse, the Spartans were.
“We felt good after being (17) points down,” Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote said. “At halftime, they (the Bearcats) were wondering if this is the same situation again. And we were saying, ‘Let’s hope it is.’ ”
It wasn’t. Each time the Spartans made a charge, the Bearcats responded.
Shawn Respert scored 27 points for Michigan State (22-8).