Spartan Hoops Courtside: MSU Delivers A Birthday Present for Izzo in Another Overtime Victory
Jan. 31, 2011
Since Tom Izzo's arrival on Michigan State's campus 28 years ago from the Upper Peninsula, he has never lost at home on his birthday.
Not as an assistant coach, not as a head coach. Not once in six previous home games on Jan. 30.
That streak was in serious jeopardy Sunday evening as Michigan State trailed Indiana nearly the entire game, including a 78-75 deficit in the final minute.
In Izzo's five previous games as a head coach at the Breslin Center on his birthday, MSU had won by a margin of 17.6 points.
On his 56th birthday, all the Spartans needed was one more than their opponent to give him a birthday present he so badly wanted for this team - a win.
Led by Kalin Lucas' game-high 26 points and more clutch heroics from Draymond Green, the Spartans (13-8, 5-4 Big Ten) pulled out an 84-83 overtime victory against the Hoosiers to snap a three-game losing skid.
"We could not lose that game - that was my mindset and the rest of the team's mindset," said Lucas, who scored 25-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time in his career and also played a career-high 43 minutes. "I think me and Day-Day (Draymond) did a good job of just keeping our team composed."
Lucas and Green teamed up for 45 points, including the final 12 in a row. In the frantic final minutes, the duo delivered under pressure.
With MSU trailing by four at 76-72 with less than two minutes remaining, Lucas nailed his third triple of the night - on a pass from Green - to make it a one-point game.
But Indiana (11-11, 2-7), coming off arguably the biggest win of the Tom Crean-era with a triumph over No. 20 Illinois Thursday night, wasn't going away without a fight. Hoosier guard Jordan Hulls gave IU a 78-75 lead under the one-minute mark on a closely contested jumper in the paint.
On the ensuing possession, the Spartans turned to Green - and he uncharacteristically missed a shot with the game on the line. The Spartans desperately fouled and walked all the way down the court to await the free throws. Breslin was silent.
"There's still 43 seconds left!" shouted a member of the Izzone, to no one in particular. Maybe to the team, maybe to the crowd, maybe to the rest of the students. "Let's go!"
That's when Hoosier guard Jeremiah Rivers decided to give his own personal birthday gift to Coach Izzo, clanking the front end of a one-and-one.
Lucas promptly raced up the floor and sliced the IU defense for a layup, cutting the lead to 78-77 with 35 ticks left. There was life.
Fouled yet again, Rivers split his next two attempts from the stripe, meaning MSU didn't have to go for 3 to force overtime. Although Lucas missed a jumper, Green was there to clean it up and was fouled with 2.9 seconds remaining.
He made the first one.
Crean then elected to use his last timeout, perhaps to try and ice Green. MSU wisely spent the break setting up its defense.
"The funny thing to me about the whole situation was we went into the timeout and you think Coach would be telling me, `come on, you need to knock this shot down,'" said Green. "He didn't say one thing about me knocking a shot down. He was in there drawing up how we were going to defend after I made my free throw so they wouldn't get a good shot off. That just gave me a lot more confidence. When we broke the huddle, he tapped me and said, `go knock it down.' And I went up and knocked it down."
The defense part worked out too as Indiana couldn't get a shot off at the end of regulation. It was back to overtime, familiar territory for Michigan State this month after OT wins against Wisconsin and Northwestern.
The teams alternated leads in the extra session until the Spartans found themselves down, 83-82, with 48 seconds left and the ball following a Hulls layup that gave IU a one-point cushion.
Now, it was Green's turn.
With the shot clock ticking away, Lucas found Keith Appling in the corner, who bounced a perfect pass to Green in the post. Green backed down Christian Watford toward the lane, almost at ease, until he tossed up what would be the game-winning shot with 29 seconds remaining.
"It was drawn up to get it to me in the post, but I still had to make a play," said Green, who finished with 19 points and a season-high 13 rebounds. "I knew I had to make the shot because I learned my lesson in the NCAA Tournament (last second play vs. Butler in 2010 Final Four). I told myself all year I have to finish strong, especially at the end of the game because a lot of times refs swallow the whistle. And if you're playing defense, that's what you want anyway. So I knew I had to get a bucket there and if they called and-one it's an added plus, but I knew I had to score the ball."
The Spartan defense held Indiana without a bucket one last time on the Hoosiers' final possession, as a last second 3-pointer from the corner by Hulls missed everything as time expired.
"We knew coming into this game that we had to get a win, whatever way possible," Green remarked. "When you're in a slump, you just have to take a win however it comes."
"This league is measured by what Michigan State does," said Crean, who has yet to beat the Spartans as a head coach in five tries. "There's probably not a program in the Big Ten that doesn't have Michigan State at the top of what the standard is in this league."
For the record, that would be 13 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, six Big Ten titles, six Final Fours and one national championship under Izzo's watch.
But tonight, while Crean was talking about the Spartan program and the respect it has within the conference, Izzo was happier for his current team.
"I think our team needed it more than the program," Izzo stated. "It was a big win after the week we went through."
Not to mention that it keeps his home-court birthday winning streak alive.
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