Editor's note: As the NCAA celebrates its 25th season of women's basketball, ESPN and ESPN.com count down the top 25 moments of NCAA Tournament history. Here, we continue the countdown with memorable NCAA moment No. 16, Michigan State's Final Four-record 16-point comeback with 16 minutes to play in the 2005 national semifinals.
It ranked as one of the biggest comebacks in Final Four history.
But as impressive as Michigan State's 68-64 victory over Tennessee last April 3 was, a Kristin Haynie steal that punctuated the Spartans' rally from a 16-point second-half deficit stole the show.
Though Michigan State guard Lindsay Bowen was the best player in the game, nailing 4-of-7 3-pointers for a game-high 18 points, Bowen's backcourt mate, Haynie, made the best play. With the score tied at 62 and Tennessee's Shanna Zolman bringing the ball up court near the top of the arc, Haynie's instinct paid off.
"I was looking right at [Zolman]," said Haynie, a senior, after the game. "I figured she was going to the high post."
Haynie hit the jackpot and, in a flash, had the ball in her hands and was sprinting toward a wide-open layup with just more than a minute to play. Michigan State -- which until that point hadn't scored a single fast-break point -- took the lead and picked up the momentum it needed to put away the game.
It was only Haynie's second field goal of the game. But the steal was all that mattered.
"How much space did [Haynie] close in the blink of an eye?" ESPN The Magazine's Eric Adelson wrote afterward. "A mile?"
It seemed like it.
"That's one of the greatest steals I've ever seen in my life. She was about six feet ahead of the pass," Michigan State coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "She was just so hungry, so hungry to get after it, and she sees the great opportunity to go for it."
The opportunity gave Michigan State its 17th straight win and put two first-time Final Four contestants in the title game for the first time in 12 years, after Baylor came back from 15 down to beat LSU in the night's earlier semifinal.
Michigan State's 16-point rally -- which tied the largest comeback in Final Four history (in 2001, Notre Dame came back from 16 down to beat Connecticut) -- wasn't easy. According to the game's AP recap, the Lady Vols opened the second half with a 14-4 run. "The Spartans looked tired and ready to pack it in when all of a sudden they found their shooting touch and a spark," and Bowen's 3-pointer capped a 14-2 spurt to cut Tennessee's lead to 51-47 with 9:13 remaining.
A pair of 3-pointers from Victoria Lucas-Perry made it 57-56 before Zolman's 3-pointer with 3:45 to play built another six-point lead. But it vanished after some Tennessee turnovers, and Lucas-Perry's free throws with 1:20 to play tied the score at 62, paving the way for Haynie's heroic steal.
Still, more drama ensued.
"After Haynie's basket, Tennessee's Loree Moore tied it with a runner, but Spartans senior center Kelli Roehrig scored underneath to make it 66-64 with 35 seconds to play," reads the AP recap. But Tennessee missed three shots before Lucas-Perry scored the last points of the game on a fast-break layup with 2.7 seconds left.
Not bad for a team that, just four years earlier, was more Big Ten cellar-dweller than dynasty destroyer.
"We just hung in there and stayed together," Haynie said. "We kept our composure, and our team gave all its heart at the end."
Tennessee coach Pat Summitt agreed.
"You have to give Michigan State credit," she said. "They had the composure, and we lacked it at times, and they made the defensive plays. And I thought again we were on our heels. I don't understand it, because it's not the way we have played all year."
"It will be a long time before I get this one out of my system," she said.
Click here to see when the next memorable moment will air in our countdown.