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Harrell, Dawson set to clash in Syracuse

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Syracuse, N.Y. — Montrezl Harrell plays hard, there's little debate there.

The Louisville junior, who is averaging 15.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 34.9 minutes a game, played all 40 minutes in the Cardinals' victory over N.C. State on Friday. And what makes the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder so effective is that he never stops going.

"I don't take any plays off," Harrell said on Saturday. "I go in and make sure I play 110 percent every play."

He'll certainly be doing that Sunday when 4 seed Louisville takes on 7 seed Michigan State in the East Regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament at the Carrier Dome.

But what will be especially intriguing is his matchup.

On the other side is Michigan State's Branden Dawson. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound senior is an athletic wonder and plays much the same way Harrell does.

However, Harrell didn't sound worried when asked about facing Dawson.

"I haven't seen too many players play with the energy that I play," Harrell said. "If he has as much energy as me it should be a good game tomorrow. I don't see him running with as much energy as I have."

Some nights throughout Dawson's career that assessment would have been accurate. But he has proven March is his time of the year as much as it is for his coach, Tom Izzo.

Dawson sparked Michigan State in last season's run to a Big Ten tournament championship and an Elite Eight appearance. He has been nearly as effective this time around, averaging 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.

In 13 career conference and NCAA Tournament games, Dawson has scored in double figures 11 times and is averaging 14.8 points and 8.2 rebounds.

However, he stayed away from the bulletin-board material.

"As you can see, he's a good player," Dawson said of Harrell. "He's a bona fide scorer. He's relentless, plays with high energy on both ends. We saw that. We're going to have to do a good job on him. We're going to have to stay solid, can't get into foul trouble, and we definitely have to rebound the ball. I think if we play solid and don't get rattled, I think we'll be fine."

Izzo was a bit more glowing in his appraisal of Harrell, describing him as a player who "dunks with his ankles" and saying he wanted to avoid showing film of him to this team.

"I made sure that Montrezl Harrell was invisible," Izzo joked, "because I didn't want them to have nightmares."

Trice as nice

The whirlwind month continues for the Trice family as Travis Trice Sr. has the Huber Heights Wayne team in the Ohio state championship game on Saturday night.

Trice Sr. drove all night to see his son, Travis Trice II, help Michigan State beat Virginia last weekend and he'll make another late-night trip for Sunday's regional final against Louisville.

"It's been a busy month," Travis Trice said. "A lot of hours on the road, a lot of late nights, but I think it just speaks to how close we are. We will go through a wall for each other. We are a very close family. I'm oldest of five and that is one of the main things I miss about being away at college is I was so used to, in high school, of going to each others' events and supporting each other through everything. We still carry that on even though we're in different states. It means a lot."

Trice played for his dad and now his brother, D'Mitrik, is a key member of the Wayne team.

"I tell my brother all the time to value that," Trice said. "It's something you'll never really experience again and try and learn as much as you can. I tell those players all the time how lucky they are to have a coach like him. He really treats it like a college. The same things they do back in high school are the things we do here, as far as pregame meals, film, scouting reports, the whole nine."

Case of the nerves

Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn admitted the moment finally got to him early in Michigan State's win over Oklahoma. The freshman guard has been a big part of the Spartans' late-season run, but he was a bit skittish on Friday.

He opened the game by committing a turnover that resulted in an easy basket and played only 11 minutes. But he feel like all the jitters are now gone.

"I had never been there before so it was hard for me to act like I had been in that kind of game," he said. "Nobody said anything to me about the turnover because the coaches know I do a great job taking care of the ball. I take great pride in it. That got them going in transition and I felt bad. Normally I don't make plays like that, but obviously I had a lot of emotions going through me."

Alum chums

Izzo and the Michigan State players often talk about the family atmosphere around the program, and that is especially evident this time of year.

Izzo said he got a text from Gary Harris on Saturday that said, "Coach, I'm still believing." He also heard from Alan Anderson, a member of the 2005 Final Four team that defied the odds to advance that far.

Anderson wanted Izzo to relay a message to the players.

"He just said, 'Make sure the guys know this is a chance of a lifetime,' " Izzo said.

The players are in constant contact with former players, as well.

"That's one of the great things about Michigan State," Trice said. "It's not like there's one or two guys. (We) probably have multiple guys that would text us. I know the biggest two for me have been Mateen (Cleaves) and Draymond Green. I'm getting texts or having conversations almost every day between those two. They're just trying to drop words of wisdom and trying to help you get through what you're doing. A lot of it is praise and encouragement. I've definitely got to thank those two."