INDIANAPOLIS -- Charlie Bell is the least known of Michigan State's "Flintstones" gang, but he became the bedrock of the defense last night.
Although his fellow Flint, Mich., natives Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves may have accounted more offensively, Bell helped the Spartans move on to their first national championship game in 21 years by shadowing Wisconsin's Jon Bryant.
Bryant, the West Regional Most Valuable Player, was held to 1-for-5 shooting and didn't make his first basket until 5: 40 left in the game. He finished with two points, 15 points below his NCAA tournament average.
"I just bodied up to him," Bell said. "I didn't want to give him any open looks."
Bell sat in the locker room with an ice bag taped to his left knee. He had acupuncture on the knee two weeks ago, yet rarely favors the leg during games.
"I think it took a gallant effort," State coach Tom Izzo said. "It's kind of funny because our seniors have done so much that you forget about Charlie. His job on Bryant was incredible."
Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett originally only committed for five years to turn the Wisconsin program around, and he has hinted that he might not come back for his sixth season. After last night's semifinal loss to Michigan State, he hedged on whether he'll return.
"My wife and I are going to get away for a while and then think about some things," said Bennett, wearing his trademark red sleeveless sweater. "I believe I have turned this around. At the appropriate time, I'll know."
Peterson has been almost as adept at drawing up plays as finishing them.
Last week, he asked Izzo to approve an alley-oop play during a timeout in the waning minutes against Iowa State. It proved to be one of the most pivotal plays of the game.
Last night, Peterson talked to Izzo during halftime about getting him the ball inside since he believed he could post up his defenders. And he went on to score half of his 16 second-half points in the lane.
"I think Morris realizes, like all seniors do, that the end is near and he'd sure like to go out on a positive note," Izzo said.
Said Peterson: "I knew it could be my last 20 minutes of my college career. I wanted the ball."
Bennett yanked Mark Vershaw out 3 1/2 minutes into the game and yelled at him about not setting screens. The Badgers' leader in scoring and assists shouted right back before taking a seat.
Bennett put Vershaw back in 1 1/2 minute later, but pulled him again two minutes into the second half.
"Well, Mark and I spat often," Bennett said. "Usually he's right and I'm wrong. But today, I was right. I sensed he didn't want to play physical."
All in the family
As Bennett was preparing for the Final Four, his daughter, Kathi, was named coach of the women's basketball team at Indiana. They are the only father-daughter coaching tandem in Division I.
Purdue's seen them all
Purdue was the only one team to have faced all the Final Four teams.
In fact, seven Boilermakers games came against the teams, with four alone against Wisconsin. Purdue went 3-4 overall, splitting with the Badgers, beating Michigan State by three in January, beating Florida by 11 in November before losing the next day to North Carolina by 15 in the Maui Invitational.
The combined 36 points by Michigan State and Wisconsin in the first half was the sixth-lowest total for a first half in Final Four history. Wisconsin's 41 points were the lowest in a national semifinal since 1984, when Kentucky scored 40 in losing to Georgetown by 13 points. The previous low in the Final Four during the shot-clock era was Michigan's 51 against Duke in the 1992 title game. Michigan State has won 10 of the past 11 meetings with the Badgers and extended the nation's longest current winning streak to 10 games. Before last night, Florida coach Billy Donovan had never played or coached against Michigan State, Wisconsin or North Carolina. But in 1989 and 1990, he was a graduate assistant at Kentucky, which beat the Tar Heels twice.