Spartans impressive in rout of Colorado

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Tom Izzo's message was simple. Remember last year, he kept telling his players, and Michigan State would be just fine. <P> Playing with the poise and tenacity expected of them in March under Izzo, the Spartans washed away the bad taste of last year's early exit from the NCAA Tournament, beating Colorado 79-64 Friday night in the first round of the South Regional.

The seventh-seeded Spartans made it look easy, building a 13-point halftime lead and maintaining a double-digit advantage the rest of the way. A year ago, they blew a seemingly comfortable second-half lead in a 69-58 opening-round loss to North Carolina State.

"That motivated us a lot. We've been working hard this year to get back in this situation," sophomore Alan Anderson said. "That loss last year hurt a lot. This puts us back on the map."

Freshman Erazem Lorbek led a balanced offense with 17 points, Chris Hill had 15 and Anderson added 14 for Michigan State. Another freshman, reserve Paul Davis, scored 10, and the Spartans outscored Colorado 20-7 from the foul line.

Michigan State (20-12) improved to 17-4 in the NCAAs under Izzo, whose .809 winning percentage in the tournament is the best among active coaches. The Spartans, who won the national championship in 2000, advanced to a second-round matchup against No. 2 Florida or No. 15 Sam Houston State.

"You have to learn how to win at one-and-done time. This gives us a good step forward," Izzo said. "Last year we were up by 11 or 12 and we folded the tent. This time we came out in the second half and played well."

Tenth-seeded Colorado (20-12), making its first appearance in the tournament since 1997, started slowly and never really got into synch. Michigan State did a good job of containing the Buffaloes' inside scoring threats and didn't allow leading scorer Michel Morandais to take over the game, either.

Morandais led Colorado with 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Seven-footer David Harrison and Blair Wilson each had 13, but the Buffaloes got little production from their lone senior starter, 6-foot-8 forward Stephane Pelle, who missed eight of 11 shots and finished with seven points.

"We put in some trapping that we don't normally do. But you have to do that with this team because, whoa -- that's a load covering Harrison," Izzo said, adding that another key to the game was the solid play of Michigan State's oft-maligned backcourt, who pushed the tempo on offense and also set the tone on defense.

"What's demoralizing when you're trying to make a run is they get an easy basket and then you have to go down and work for your basket," Wilson said.

Although Colorado coach Ricardo Patton and his players said they didn't expect the Buffaloes to be adversely affected by arriving in Tampa a day late because of a snowstorm, Michigan State appeared to be the fresher team.

The Spartans played smothering defense, contesting virtually every Colorado shot without getting into foul trouble, and methodically built a 44-29 halftime lead behind the scoring of Anderson, Hill and Davis, who scored eight before the break.

Hill's 3-pointer early in the second half put Michigan State up by 20 and the closest Colorado got after that was 11. The Spartans, who made three straight trips to the Final Four from 1999-2001, then went on a 10-2 spurt to regain control of the game.

Patton didn't feel Colorado played as well as it was capable, but said the result didn't put a damper on a season that's likely to earn him a contract extension. The Buffaloes won 20 or more games for just the third time in school history.

"We were picked in the preseason to finish ninth in the Big 12, and we've had a nice little run," Patton said.

"As I told the guys, some teams lose in the first round, some lose in the second. But ultimately, all but one will lose at some point. And hopefully, we can learn how to extend our stay."

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