Michigan State vs Colorado
On March 21st, 2003 at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tom Izzo stated a simple message. Remember last year, he kept telling his players, and Michigan State would be just fine.
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."
Sam Houston State vs University of Florida
The losing streak ended here in Tampa, Florida on March 22, 2003 when UF defeated Sam Houston State in the opening round of the South Regionals. Sophomore David Lee lead the Gators with a career high 23-points, helping gain the final result of a 85-55 victory.
Florida (25-7) was the only team to come into the NCAA Tournament with three straight losses. After watching his team dominate the Southland Conference champs, coach Billy Donovan stood by his claim that there was never any need to panic -- that all the games had been close, and his team was playing well.
"I think this is a very good barometer," Donovan said. "Sam Houston State is very good. Maybe people thought this game was going to be lopsided, but this time of year, you can throw seedings out. Everyone is going against teams playing at a very high level."
Michigan State vs University of Florida
The two first-seed winners battled it out on the St. Pete Times Forum court on March 23, 2003. In the end, Michigan State defeated Florida in the second round, 68-46 to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the fifth time in six years. The Spartans then defeated No. 17 Maryland to advance to the Elite Eight for the fourth time in five years. However, MSU fell to No. 5 Texas in the Regional Final.