Seniors happy to win TOUGH opening tourney game

Michigan State felt that old creeping feeling as the Old Dominion Monarchs hung around with less than four minutes left in the game, but this time, the experience gained from close losses appeared to spur the Spartans on to the win. MSU went to work defensively, shutting down ODU at the end, pleasing head coach <B>Tom Izzo</B> and senior forward <b>Alan Anderson</b>.

Coach Tom Izzo didn't quite know what to expect out of his senior laden group of Spartans who were facing a pesky Old Dominion team. But Izzo decided if MSU was going to make a run in the tournament, he was probably better off facing a tough test in his team's first NCAA tournament game.

"Down the stretch I thought our defense became much, much better. I thought we did kind of get our running game going and I thought our seniors here, along with K.T.(Kelvin Torbert) and Paul made some plays down the stretch.

"With seven minutes left we said, 'Hey, you know what? It's perfect. It's better that it's a close game because we've got to win a game down the stretch and get over this hurdle'. I think we did and yet it was against a very, very good team."

That was something for Izzo to be proud of in his team especially with highly seeded teams falling by the way side including Bucknell shocking #3 seed Kansas, Vermont knocking off #4 seed Syracuse and UCONN scrapping to barely hold off a game Central Florida Knights squad.

Senior forward Alan Anderson said the win was like a monkey off the team's back. "It feels good. It let's us know we can end those big close games, we can knock down those big free throws, we can come together and get those big stops when we need stops and get big rebounds."

Guard Chris Hill, who has been maligned all year for making turnovers at key junctures was appreciative to get an opportunity to be back on the floor at crunch time.

"It felt great to be back out there. It says a lot about coach to still give me the opportunity even though I was struggling shooting the ball. Fortunately myself and some other guys made some plays down the stretch that were big for us. The bottom line is just winning right now. That's what feels the best is that together and collectively, we got a win."

While it feels good, the Spartans got only one night to enjoy the win. They know looming is a game Vermont squad led by Taylor Coppenrath, T.J. Sorrentine and Germain Mopa Njila. The trio combined for 53 points and 17 rebounds in their stunning upset of Syracuse.

MSU knows things are only going to get tougher if they want to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. ``For Vermont to beat a tough Syracuse team, that says a lot about them,"remarked Anderson.

Still, this senior-laden squad of Spartans believes they have one last chance to write a sweet ending to the story of their MSU careers and they don't intend to allow a "Cinderella" team to take that chance away.

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