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LIVE BLOG: Michigan State 63, Duke 49 (FINAL)

POSTGAME: Suzy Merchant on her team's home-court advantage: "I certainly think it made a huge difference for us."

Michigan State 63, Duke 49, FINAL: The last shot of Chante Black's illustrious career at Duke was a 3 that didn't hit the rim.  What a sad way to go out.  Michigan State fans are storming the court right now-- a home victory on a "neutral" site.  Back with stats and quotes later.

Michigan State 61, Duke 49, :28.9: It's over.  Thomas airballed a 3, then Waner fouled Kalisha Keane, who hit both free throws.  Jefferson just fired up the crowd in front of press row, a look of pure joy on her face.  Meanwhile the scene on the Duke bench is heartbreaking.

Michigan State 59, Duke 49, :42.6: Duke's fouling.  After an errant Waner 3, Thomas fouled Johnson, who hit 1-of-2.

Michigan State 58, Duke 49, :59.8: Jasmine Thomas put up two straight NBA-range 3's that looked very much like desperation shots to me.  Timeout Duke.

Michigan State 55, Duke 47, 1:43: Unbelievable.  Aitch, underneath the basket, managed to hit a shot for the Spartans, despite being fouled by Cheek.  That put Michigan State up by four.  Then, Johnson hit back-to-back shots, both runners that easily got through the Duke press defense, to put the Spartans up by eight.  Breslin Arena is the loudest its been all night.  It looks very bad for the Blue Devils right now.

Michigan State 49, Duke 47, 3:43: Its getting very intense here.  Three offensive rebounds in a row had Suzy Merchant screaming for an offensive foul, while McCallie screamed equally loud that it wasn't.  Big shot by Aitch to put the Spartans up two at the end of the series.

Its good to see that the NCAA hasn't let crass commercialism seep into their original goal of helping the student athlete-- I was just told to throw away my water bottle, or put it in a Vitaminwater cup.

Michigan State 47, Duke 46, 5:36: It hasn't really been DeHaan that's stopped Black-- it's been Johnson and Jefferson.  They're shorter than Black, but have been much more physical.  They've also been very good at clogging up passing lanes, making it difficult to get the ball to Chante.

Duke 46, Michigan State 46, 7:05: Cheek has the last two baskets for Duke, the last one coming off a great pass by, you guessed it, Karima Christmas.  The Blue Devils are now pressing on defense for one of the first times in the game.  Its strange they haven't really utilized their most vaunted part of their defense until now.  We'll see how they defend the Spartan attack for the rest of the game.

Duke 42, Michigan State 42, 9:30: Christmas has seven of Duke's last eight-- she's playing excellent.  Also, they just showed the highlights from the Blue Devils' loss to Maryland in the ACC Championship game, and, of course, the fans went wild.  In the words of my counterpart Kevin Fishner who is sitting beside me, " the world...would they show that?"

Michigan State 40, Duke 38, 11:30: Christmas is the ultimate "glue" player on this team-- she gets rebounds, she plays great defense, and she hits very timely shots.  Exhibit A: a 3-pointer at 13:38 to put the game at 38-36.  Michigan State still has the lead, but if more Blue Devils play like Christmas, Duke can get back in the lead.

Michigan State 36, Duke 33, 15:02: Wow, what a 5 minute stretch.  After the break, Black hit a layup to cut the Spartan lead to three.  Then, Gay stole the ball, and Waner hit a huge 3-pointer to tie the game.  The two teams have been trading baskets since then (one notable bucket being a sweet reverse layup from Jasmine Thomas at 15:39- she has 12 points).  Aitch just retook the lead for Michigan State with a layup.

Probably should mention this: Black has three fouls.  She's sitting on the bench, and probably won't come back in for a while.

Michigan State 25, Duke 20, HALFTIME: Turnovers and bad shots are killing the Blue Devils.  A misjudged Cheek shot that missed the rim entirely turned into a Michigan State fastbreak and Lykendra Johnson layup.  Duke has 10 turnovers at the half, compared to eight from the Spartans.  The Blue Devils also shot an atrocious 26.7% from the floor.  McCallie can only hope that that was an anomaly, and will be fixed in the second half.

It was just brought to my attention that Leslie Hill, color commentator for tonight's game, played on the same ESPN intramural team as Abby Waner during Waner's internship at ESPN this summer.  Pretty cool connection.

In other ESPN news...if you flip to ESPN, you can see that Maryland, another one seed, is playing Utah, the No. 9 seed, in its bracket.  Funny thing is, the Terrapins are playing in College Park right now-- a home game.  The Blue Devils wish they were that lucky, I'm sure.

Michigan State 20, Duke 18, 3:50: Cheek is starting right now to pick up that slack- she just hit a bucket to cut the Spartan lead to two.

I know I've said this already, but I hope TV does justice as to just how loud it is in here.  Intense.

Michigan State 17, Duke 13, 6:43: An intense five minutes of play, dominated by Michigan State reserves Kalisha Keane and Lauren Aitch: Keane hit a layup to cut the Duke lead to one, then Aitch hit a jumper that put the Spartans in the lead.  A Keane 3 put the Michigan State advantage at 15-9.  Jasmine Thomas just hit a jumper to cut the Blue Devil deficit to 4.

Duke's two stars are not playing like themselves.  Waner has played limited minutes, and Black is struggling.  It will be up to the other players- especially Carrem Gay and Joy Cheek- to pick up the slack.

Duke 9, Michigan State 8, 11:36: This is going to be a long night for the Blue Devils.  Chante Black has been shut down in the paint by the much taller Allyssa DeHaan (the 6-foot-9 center).  The home crowd is beyond raucous-- a Black block that they thought was a foul caused booing unlike any I've ever heard in a women's basketball game.  Cetera Washington just cut the lead to lead to one and the place is now going nuts.

Duke 3, Michigan State 3, 15:19: Man, that was an awkward commercial break.  The Duke cheerleaders and band come out to do "Take on Me" and "You Shook Me All Night Long".  Only thing is, they were performing in front of a Michigan State home crowd.  No applause from anyone.  Guy behind me yelled, "That was weak!"

Abby Waner has Duke's only points- a 3-pointer to start the game.  She was taken out of the game shortly after, though, and replaced with Joy Cheek, and she now is riding an exercise bike to rehab her sprained knee.

PREGAME: A sign in the crowd: "Coach P who? We love Merchant!"  This does, of course, mark the return of Coach McCallie to the school that she coached for seven years.  According to the AP, she was booed during Duke's first round game against Austin Peay, and it appears that feelings among Michigan State fans haven't warmed at all.

A few other notes about the Spartans:

- Their center is the tallest woman I have ever seen.  She's 6-foot-9, and she averages 10.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

-These are their cheerleaders. Spartan Spirit!

PREGAME: Good evening and welcome to the Chronicle Sports Live Blog!  We're coming at you live from East Lansing, Michigan today for Duke's second round Tournament matchup against Michigan State.  The Blue Devils are the No. 1 seed in the bracket, and the Spartans are the No. 9 seed, yet, for reasons still beyond my comprehension, Michigan State is playing on their home court.  I've counted maybe five people in Duke shirts not right behind the Duke bench.  Gotta love the way the NCAA treats the higher seed.  Wow.

Hey speaking of the NCAA- the organization may or may not have a control problem.  Some evidence:

-My white macbook may not be opened all the way due to possible glare on the court.

-Normally free wireless internet is now $16.50.  It will go back to being free once the Tournament is over.

-If this blog in any way resembles a "real-time" description of the game, then the NCAA may revoke the Chronicle's credentials.

-In fact, at this point the NCAA is monitoring the Blog to make sure that the "credential entity is following the NCAA Blogging Policy".

Orwellian, to say the least.


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