Originally created 04/02/00

Near-record low scoring for NCAA semifinal



INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan State and Wisconsin combined for 36 points in the first half Saturday, the fourth fewest points ever in the NCAA tournament semifinals.

The Spartans led 17-8 with 11:37 to go, but managed only two free throws the rest of the half for a 19-17 lead.

The record also involved Wisconsin, which trailed Pittsburgh 18-14 in 1941. Oregon State and Oklahoma State tied the mark with 32 points in 1949. Ohio State and Villanova combined for 35 points in 1939.

"Under the basket is tough," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We did a decent job defensively, but we just missed some shots."

FACED THEM ALL: Purdue coach Gene Keady has a unique perspective on the Final Four.

His Boilermakers were the only team to play each of the Final Four teams this season. In the regular season, Purdue beat Florida and Michigan State, split a pair of games against Wisconsin and lost to North Carolina. The Boilermakers also lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament and in the NCAA regionals.

"We're going to have a Big Ten team in the finals, and I like that," he said. "And my house-mate in college was Bill Guthridge, so I like North Carolina."

Keady said it was "a shame" either Michigan State or Wisconsin had to lose.

"I like both coaches a lot, and I like their fans," he said.

FACES IN THE CROWD: Among the spectators in the RCA Dome were former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Ali lives in Berrien Springs, Mich.

They were sitting about a dozen rows behind the courtside press row.

THIRD TIMER: North Carolina's Ed Cota reached the Final Four for the third time, still looking for his first victory.

The Tar Heels lost to eventual champion Arizona in the 1997 semifinals, also in the RCA Dome, and to Utah in the semifinals in 1998. They were upset by Weber State in the first round last year.

"You really can't learn much from your past experience," Cota said. "It's a totally different team and a totally different year."

North Carolina, which had 13 losses this season, got into the tournament with an at-large bid and a No. 8 seed, which tied its lowest ever.

"It really didn't matter what seed we got," Cota said. "We were going to be motivated regardless because we felt we had something to prove to ourselves and our coaches."

FINAL GAME: Jody Silvester's first Final Four game as a referee was in Michigan State's semifinal victory over Pennsylvania in 1979, and his last was Saturday night in Florida's semifinal against North Carolina.

The 63-year-old official is retiring after four decades as a college referee. He was assigned last week to one of the two semifinals in the RCA Dome, but he didn't find out which one until Saturday.

Silvester has officiated in every NCAA tournament since 1979, when Michigan State went on to the beat Indiana State in the championship game. This year, he also worked the first and second rounds in Nashville, Tenn., where he officiated the Tulsa-UNLV and Miami-Ohio State games.