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WRGT-TV FOX 45 News :: Sports - Local Sports - Michigan St lacks balance, loses 81-61 in semifinals to Duke

Michigan St lacks balance, loses 81-61 in semifinals to Duke

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Denzel Valentine's start to the Final Four was the stuff of dreams - three quick 3-pointers and an early lead for Michigan State.

He spent the rest of the night looking at a wall of white jerseys.

Valentine finished with 22 points, but the Spartans fell flat after that bright beginning, losing 81-61 to Duke in Saturday night's national semifinal.

"They did a good job of taking me away," Valentine said. "I got hot, and they started denying a little bit, and started forcing us to take bad shots."

After looking so comfortable early on, Michigan State ended up shooting only 40 percent for the game. The Spartans missed 10 of their last 11 shots in the first half, a stretch they couldn't afford against the favored Blue Devils.

So Michigan State's season ended in the national semifinals, and the seventh-seeded Spartans (27-12) looked very much like the underdog at a Final Four that included them and three No. 1 seeds.

"We got beat. Unfortunately I thought Duke played awfully well, but I thought it wasn't one of our better games," said coach Tom Izzo, who is 1-9 against Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. "Give Duke credit, and give our seniors credit for getting us to a place that most people didn't think we'd get to."

The Spartans' run to the Final Four was built on tough defense and timely outside shooting, with Valentine and Travis Trice leading the way. There was never that much offensive balance - and there was none on Saturday.

Trice scored 16 points and Branden Dawson added 12, but Dawson shot only 5 of 12 from the field and was Michigan State's only real offensive threat inside.

Matt Costello scored six points for Michigan State, and nobody else had more than two.

"I think we got kind of frustrated the first half," Valentine said. "We didn't keep our cool a little bit. Led to turnovers and bad shots."

The Spartans could not have asked for a much better start offensively. Valentine made two quick 3s, then Trice added one and Valentine made another. Michigan State led 14-6 and was showing no sign of nerves. A couple of Spartans slapped the floor on defense - a gesture Duke helped popularize years ago, but one Michigan State has become fond of.

"I don't think we started the game out with the intensity that we needed," Duke guard Quin Cook said. "A couple times ... I tried to cheat a ball screen, and Trice and Valentine will make you pay."

It turned out the early advantage was the high point for the Spartans. For the rest of the half, the Blue Devils (34-4) always seemed to have an extra defender ready to cut off Valentine and Trice on the perimeter, practically daring anyone else on Michigan State's team to make a significant contribution.

"They were denying us on the wings, kind of turning us down. Any time they had an opportunity, they switched," Trice said. "That's what made it rough for us to get it on the wings."

With about a minute left in the half, Valentine was knocked to the floor near midcourt and got up limping. He played on, but by then that early groove he and his teammates were in was long gone.

While the Spartans struggled offensively, they had nobody who could match up well inside with Duke star Jahlil Okafor at the other end. And they couldn't keep the Blue Devils off the foul line. Duke went 27 of 37 on free throws, and Dawson, Costello and Gavin Schilling were all in foul trouble down the stretch.

"You know, you're not allowed to touch anybody anymore," Izzo said. "I was here when we had smash-mouth basketball. I totally agree, I don't think that's the right way to do it. But I also don't think, I don't think anybody wants to see the best players on the bench."
Michigan St lacks balance, loses 81-61 in semifinals to Duke

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Ohio Sports

Last Update on May 30, 2015 05:33 GMT

NATIONALS-REDS

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Washington's Stephen Strasburg left after only 16 pitches, and Zack Cozart had three hits as the Cincinnati Reds rallied against the Nationals' bullpen for a 5-2 victory on Friday night.

The Reds won for only the second time in 12 games.

Strasburg gave up a solo homer in the first inning to Joey Votto and walked Brayan Pena on his 16th pitch to open the second. He shrugged after the pitch, a trainer went to the mound, and Strasburg headed for the clubhouse after a brief conversation.

Taylor Jordan (0-1) took over and gave up three runs in the sixth. Brandon Phillips -- limited to pinch hitting because of a sore toe -- tied it with a sacrifice fly. Billy Hamilton singled for a 3-2 lead, stole second, and scored on Cozart's third single of the game.

Anthony DeSclafani (3-4) went six innings for his first win since April 20.

INDIANS-MARINERS

SEATTLE (AP) -- Taijuan Walker allowed two hits over eight strong innings, Seth Smith hit a two-run homer, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Cleveland Indians 2-1 Friday night.

Walker (2-5) got his first win since April 27 with one of the best starts of the 22-year-old's young career. He did not walk a batter and struck out eight, matching his career high.

Smith, batting cleanup for the first time this season with Robinson Cano out sick, hit a 2-1 pitch from Trevor Bauer (4-2) into the right-center seats in the sixth inning. It scored Nelson Cruz, who had singled.

The Mariners have homered in eight straight games and 13 of their last 14.

Fernando Rodney had trouble in the ninth, allowing a pinch-hit, run-scoring single by Ryan Raburn, but still earned his 14th save in 16 opportunities.

REDS-ROTATION

CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Reds have moved struggling starter Jason Marquis to the bullpen, leaving them with three rookies in the starting rotation for now.

Marquis signed with the Reds in the offseason, continuing his comeback from Tommy John surgery. He went 3-4 with a 6.46 ERA in nine starts, prompting manager Bryan Price to rearrange his rotation for a series against the Washington Nationals on Friday.

Marquis gave up four runs and 10 hits during 5 2/3 innings of a 5-4 loss on Monday to the Rockies.

Johnny Cueto remains sidelined by inflammation in his pitching elbow, causing him to miss two starts so far. Price said the earliest he would return is a series in Philadelphia next week.

BROWNS-YOUNT WAIVED

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Browns waived veteran long snapper Christian Yount.

The 26-year-old Yount had been with Cleveland since replacing Ryan Pontbriand in 2011. One of the NFL's steadiest snappers, Yount struggled last season, forcing the Browns to sign Charley Hughlett off Kansas City's practice squad a few days before the finale in Baltimore.

Yount appeared in 53 games with the Browns, who signed him to a five-year, $4.2 million contract extension in 2013. His problems last season began when he snapped high on a missed extra-point attempt in a win against New Orleans. He also had two bad snaps in a two-point loss to Baltimore.

Hughlett is currently the only long snapper on Cleveland's roster. He'll work in training camp with Carey Spear and Travis Coons, expected to compete for the starting kicker's job. Neither have kicked in a regular-season game.

FINALS-CAVALIERS

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) -- LeBron James says he's given teammates "the blueprint" for the NBA Finals and it's up to the Cavaliers to follow it.

James will appear in his fifth straight finals, a feat not accomplished since 1966 when members of the Boston Celtics were on their dynastical run. As he and the Cavaliers prepare to meet Golden State, James says the key to postseason success is to stay even keeled and understand the task at hand.

One of Cleveland's main issues against the Warriors will be defending Stephen Curry, the league's MVP with the deadly shooting touch. Asked how the Cavs intend to slow Curry, James says, "the same way you slow me down. You can't."

The break before Game 1 on Thursday will allow Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving more time to recover after he was slowed by knee tendinitis and a sore foot in the Eastern Conference finals.

WARRIORS-THOMPSON

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson has been diagnosed with a concussion and will not practice until he is symptom free.

The Warriors announced the diagnosis Friday after Thompson went through neurological tests earlier in the day. Thompson was kneed in the head by Houston's Trevor Ariza in the fourth quarter of Golden State's Western Conference finals clinching win Wednesday night.

Thompson will be evaluated and will not be allowed back on the court until he clears the NBA concussion protocol guidelines.

Thompson was initially cleared to return to the game by team doctors. He ended up not playing and started developing symptoms after the game.

The NBA Finals start next Thursday against Cleveland.

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