With tremendous team defense, tenacious rebounding, and clutch shooting, the 5th seeded Spartans (25-6) defeated the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils, 78-68, in the opening game of the Austin Regional Friday night.
Paul Davis, in what may one day be remembered as the biggest performance of his Spartan career, had a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds. His biggest points of the night came when he caused Duke's Sheldon Williams to foul out on a lay-up, which led to a three point play with under three minutes to play.
Three other Spartans hit for double figures (Alan Anderson scored 17, Maurice Ager 14, and Shannon Brown 11) as Michigan State seized control of the game in the second half after Duke's Shelden Williams hit two free throws and Daniel Ewing scored on a breakaway for a 36-32 lead, Alan Anderson highlighted a 16-3 run with three 3-pointers as the Spartans took a 48-39 lead with just under 12 minutes to play.
After a 3-pointer and a follow jam by Duke's Lee Melchionni, the Spartans responded with two layups by Maurice Ager, including a rousing one-handed fast-break dunk that rebuilt a 52-44 lead with 10:22 left.
Duke's J.J. Redick then hit a pair of 3-pointers - his first baskets in nearly 13 minutes - and two free throws, and Williams scored twice from the stripe with 7:10 remaining to pull Duke within 58-54.
Davis then took over. He scored eight points - all on the inside - over the next 4 1/2 minutes, including a 3-point play that fouled Williams out and pushed the Spartans' edge back to 69-63 with 2:41 left. The 6-10 junior converted the first two of Michigan State's eight straight free throws in the final 65 seconds to seal the victory.
The Spartans, who outrebounded the Blue Devils, 35-28, and forced 21 turnovers - eight more than the Blue Devils' season average.
Sheldon Williams had 19 points and nine rebounds and Daniel Ewing added 18 for Duke (27-6), which got knocked out in a regional semifinal for the fourth time in the last six years.
J.J. Redick, a National Player of the Year candidate, who scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half of Duke's win over Michigan State in November, scored just 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting Friday night. He didn't get a shot for the first 9 ½ minutes of the game.
The Spartan foursome of Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown, Chris Hill and Tim Bograkos controlled Redick defensively all night as Spartan head coach Tom Izzo rotated the four players in and out of the lineup to hound Redick with fresh legs.
Michigan State's victory gives Izzo his first win over Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski in five tries - including a loss in the Final Four in 1999, the year before the Spartans won the national championship.