March 17, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
COLUMBUS - History will look on Draymond "DayDay" Green's second NCAA Tournament triple-double with more significance than he is.
Think of it like this. When it happens again someday, maybe another 33 years from now, they'll say of that player: "He just placed himself in the esteemed company of Oscar Robertson, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Draymond Green."
Another way to put Green's feat in perspective is to look at all the great players who never had multiple triple-doubles in the national tournament, starting with Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Bill Russell.
Green scored 24 points, pulled down 12 rebounds, and picked the vital 10th assist on a feed that led to a Brandon Wood jumper with 2:04 remaining in MSU's 89-67 victory over LIU Brooklyn in its tournament opener Friday night in Nationwide Arena.
It came one day shy of a year after his 23-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist performance in the two-point 2011 tournament-opening loss to UCLA. Green's triple-doubles came in back-to-back tournament appearances, albeit a year apart, while Johnson's pair came in the 1979 NCAA opener against Lamar and three games later in the Final Four versus Pennsylvania.
Robertson, one of the two or three greatest all-around players in basketball history, had four in tournament play while playing for the University of Cincinnati from 1957-60.
In characteristic fashion, Green regarded the feat more as a statement about how top-seeded Michigan State played as a team than a major individual accomplishment.
Center Derrick Nix turned four Green passes into layups or dunks, center Adreian Payne scored two inside baskets off Green dishes, Brandan Kearney used one for a layup, another led to a jumper by Austin Thornton and one also set up a 3-pointer by Wood with 8:14 to go.
"It was great," Green said. "But at the same time, if Nix doesn't hit the shots that he hit, or Adreian doesn't hit the shots he hit, and Keith (Appling), and Brandon Wood, and Austin, all those guys - I don't get a triple-double and the game doesn't look as good.
"On TV, you're going to see a triple-double pop up in my stats, but you will never see the other guys' stats on what they did to contribute to me getting that triple-double."
Green's success against the Blackbirds was certainly a byproduct of design. The game plan called for the Spartans to attack LIU inside with its superior size, and Nix responded with a career-high 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the floor while Payne matched his all-time MSU-best with 16 points on 8-for-11 accuracy.
Still, it was Green's night, and the magnitude of the accomplishment wasn't lost on head coach Tom Izzo, who has a thing for memory-making moments that will last forever as footprints in the sands of time.
Earlier in the week, Green was in Izzo's office when Johnson happened to call.
"We were talking and I said, Draymond's here, why don't you talk to him," Izzo said. "I don't know what he said to him, but it might have been something good. I might have to call him back.
"Normally, you don't care about stats. (Assistant coach) Dwayne Stephens told me with three minutes, four minutes left, whatever, that he's one shy. I think guys that have a chance to do something that leaves a mark deserves the opportunity, and so I told him he's got one shot - and that was the shot."
Green also led the defensive effort that held LIU to 38.5-percent shooting in the second half after it's 50-percent accuracy in the first half had Michigan State holding only an uncomfortable five-point lead at intermission.
By standing out in every phase of the game, Green atoned for what he considered a subpar performance in the victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game. Green went from making 4-of-15 shots against the Buckeyes to going 10-for-17 against the Blackbirds.
"I think the comeback off a game like I had against Ohio State, even though we were able to pull out a win when I have an individual performance like I did, I think helps me out by getting me close to playing at the level I'm capable of playing at," Green said. "It's the right time of the year to be playing good. To be able to have a game like that at this point, I think is pretty good for me."
Said Izzo, "I'm proud of DayDay because he didn't have a great game against Ohio State. But he had a heckuva practice on Tuesday, and I knew things were going to get better."
Green has three career triple-doubles, including one against Penn State (15-14-10) during the 2010-11 regular season. Johnson's school record of eight in all games may never be broken.
Green isn't even sure he wants to claim the one he had against UCLA.
"The last one doesn't matter because it was a loss, and I could really care less about stats," Green said. "I would rather have a win last year than a triple-double."
In fact, he'll be happy with a triple-single in Sunday's game against St. Louis if MSU comes out with a victory to advance to the West Regional semifinals in Phoenix.
Jim Ferry, the LIU coach, had the same opinion of Green after the game as he did before it.
"I thought he was a great player going in on tape and he was a great player live," Ferry said. "He's going to have a very long career in front of him. He's just a fantastic basketball player."