Michigan State Gets Past Stanford, 76-69
When a little known Maine team, then coached by Joanne P. McCallie, upset Stanford in the 1999 NCAA women’s basketball tournament, Cardinal faithful considered it an unplanned misstep.
The win on Tuesday by McCallie’s new team, Michigan State, had a deeper impact.
The Cardinal was thought to be a lock for the Final Four for the first time since 1997 after beating three-time defending champion Connecticut, but instead had its Indianapolis tickets ripped away by Michigan State, which pulled off a 76-69 win in the regional final here in front of 2,475 at the Municipal Auditorium.
Michigan State (32-3), which got 24 points from freshman Liz Shimek and 20 points and seven assists from senior guard Kristin Haynie, won its 16th straight game to continue its best season ever. Stanford (32-3), which had 19 points from freshman guard Candice Wiggins and 16 points from junior center Brooke Smith, had its winning streak ended at 23 games.
“A terrific basketball game, absolutely terrific,” said a joyous McCallie afterward. “We are thrilled to join our men’s team in a Final Four, and to have Michigan State represented so nationally. This is something the women have dreamt about so long ... it’s something well deserved.”
The dream was just as viable on the other side.
“Unfortunately we didn’t make some defensive stops when we needed to,” Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer said. “And that’s a credit to Michigan State. They have an excellent team.”
The Spartans bounced out to an 8-0 lead, but Stanford caught them at 13, and the teams spent the rest of the first half searching for a definitive edge. Neither found one, so they left the floor at halftime deadlocked at 28-28.
Stanford was determined to establish Smith on the inside but the Michigan State 3-2 zone made interior passes difficult. And when Smith got the ball she often had little room to operate.
Even when Stanford made four three-point baskets (in eight attempts), the Spartan defense didn’t loosen up much. It was apparent Michigan State was going to make the Cardinal win from the perimeter.
The Cardinal did find time to play defense though. Michigan State, which also made four of eight three-pointers, took nine more shots in the half than Stanford (35-26) but made one fewer basket (11-12). The Spartans also had five shots blocked.
But letting the early lead slip away did not discourage the Spartans. They were controlling the tempo, constantly making Stanford react to them. And they were not giving Stanford extra chances with mistakes.
For the game, Michigan State only had five turnovers (to Stanford’s 12).
“In some ways they did to us what we did to Connecticut,” VanDerveer said.
That was evident in the second half, when the Spartans ran out to a 45-33 lead in the first five minutes, and pushed it to 55-42 on two Kelli Roehrig free throws at the 11:09 mark.
“I felt at times our offense wasn’t clicking like it has,” said Kelley Suminski, one of five Stanford seniors whose college careers ended Tuesday.
The Cardinal finally had a spurt, 15-2. Smith was most effective, scoring six of her 12 second-half points. But all that did was get Stanford tied at 57-57. It tied the score again at 59, and 61. But the Cardinal could never get the lead.
“We’re very disappointed,” Suminski said.
“We felt we deserved to be in the Final Four. We worked so hard