Trice's effort noted by friends and foes

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — When Travis Trice walked off the court for the final time in his Michigan State career, there was little doubt he had given it everything he had.

At 6-foot and barely 170 pounds, Trice played like a giant over the last few weeks. In the NCAA Tournament alone he came into Saturday's Final Four meeting with Duke averaging 19.8 points and shooting 42.4 percent from 3-point range.

Even after being Trice was held to 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting in Duke's 81-61 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo made it clear what he had meant to the magical March run.

"Branden (Dawson) played well and Zel (Denzel Valentine) played well," Izzo said outside the Michigan State locker room. "But Travis led us to the Final Four."

It was an amazing run by the Spartans, but the last couple of months of Trice's Spartans career have been even more impressive. In the previous 15 games, Trice was scoring 18.2 points a game and shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

And the Blue Devils knew they needed to hold Trice and fellow senior Branden Dawson in check. When the game ended, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski talked for a minute with both departing Spartans.

"He just told us about the great players he thought we were and with everything we've been through in four years and how we came into our own," Trice said. "He just said you guys are great players."

Trice left the court at one point in the second half, taking a shot in the midsection that forced him to the locker room. But true to his character, he was back a few minutes later. When the game was no longer in doubt, he checked out and hugged his coach before sitting on the bench one final time.

"This is rough, especially when you're that close and you feel like you didn't play your best game," Trice said. "And we feel like we kind of beat ourselves. I don't want to take anything from Duke, but I give them credit, every time we made a mistake they capitalized on it and that's what hurt us.

"I appreciate it now. I appreciate everything this team has done. It just sucks because we wanted to go all the way. Down the road I know I'm really gonna appreciate it."

Giving it away

Michigan State hadn't turned the ball over 14 times in almost three months. In fact, the last time the Spartans had done so was in a victory over Rutgers on Jan. 29 when they gave it away 17 times. That came a game after they committed 16 turnovers in a loss at Nebraska.

But in the loss to Duke on Saturday, the 14 Michigan State turnovers led to 19 points for the Blue Devils.

"I think (we were) trying to force the issue," Trice said. "A lot of our turnovers were really unforced. They were kind of on us trying to make the extra play or make the home run play. I think that came to bite us tonight. Usually we don't do that."

Izzo emphasized the 27 fouls called on Michigan State wasn't a factor.

"That's not what beat us," Izzo said. "What beat us is the free throws and the turnovers. At halftime, we had two assists. We've been ranked in the top of the country in assists all year. I thought that was our fault. We moved the ball good early, a lot of good things happened. We got caught making a couple of unforced plays. That was the difference in the game."

Slam dunks

It was the seventh Final Four appearance for Izzo, whose record in the final weekend of the season dropped to 3-6. His victories came in 2000 when the Spartans won the national championship and in 2009 when they beat Connecticut before falling to North Carolina in the national title game.

Izzo also saw his record against Krzyzewski fall to 1-9, the only victory coming in the 2005 Sweet 16.

… The 20-point loss was the largest of the season for Michigan State, surpassing a 16-point loss at Maryland on Jan. 17. It was the largest margin of defeat for the Spartans since they lost, 67-47, at Purdue on Feb. 27, 2011.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau