How ironic is it that practically two years to the day that we upset then-Top 10 Illinois, we knock off 7th-ranked Michigan State? At least this time around, the home crowd had a chance to enjoy it by storming the floor at the final buzzer.
Why is it that HHV always seems to miss out on the home games where we end up storming the court? There is no basketball god…
Isn’t it also ironic that we’ve managed to extract revenge over both Illinois and MSU for inconceivable losses we suffered to them this past football season? It feels like the “Bizzaro World” from Seinfeld, I feel the exact opposite from when I wrote this seething post back in November, the day after the gridiron version of the Land Grant Trophy battle.
The best part about this game was watching it at the bar next to an MSU alum. I walked in about a few minutes into the ballgame, seeing we had a slight lead but feeling that “any moment now” we were going to collapse and allow MSU to beat us like Asian child laborers. I didn’t expect to stay beyond the first half, figuring MSU would take control by then, but a funny thing happened on the way to an upset…We battled back from a 6-point defecit to take a 3-point halftime lead.
The halftime lead continued well into the second half, even though I kept assuring the MSU alum (who by now, was cursing out his own team for shooting jump shots instead of feeding it down low everytime for an easy layup/dunk) that we were PSU and we’d find a way to choke. Even when it seemed like we were about to let such a choke job happen though, somebody…either Talor Battle, Stanley Pringle, or Mike Walker would come up with a clutch shot, or somebody would draw a foul to help earn one of 51 trips to the free-throw line.
I emboldened the “51” because that is just unheard of in college hoops games, let alone for a team missing a guy like Geary Claxton of all people. Compare it to the mere 21 trips to the line for MSU, and you can see how big of a difference it made for us, even though we only connected on 34 of those 51 shots. I kept joking with the MSU alum that the referees read the game notes and felt sympathetic enough towards our 16-game regular season losing streak against Sparty that they were going to give us every call possible before going back to screwing us over again usual for the next game. (And to clarify: Yes, we did beat MSU in 2001, but it was in the Big Ten Tournament. You have to go all the way back to when bands like Third Eye Blind ruled the music world (1997) to find our last regular season win over MSU, hence 16-game regular season losing streak).
This game just had all the WTF moments that resembled one of those crazy first-round upsets in the NCAA Tournament: The undersized, undermanned underdogs, playing above their heads (see: Danny Morrissey’s “block” on MSU’s forward Drew Naymick, which was called for a foul but nonetheless got the team and the crowd fired up), the bench erupting after every positive play in the 2nd half, the crowd realizing what was going on and believing that perhaps something special was about to occur, and the coach of the favored team grabbing one of his players by the jersey to give him an earful…It seemed like one of those magical atmospheres that you can’t help but get goosebumps over because it’s just THAT exciting, even the MSU alum admitted that it was a great game to watch.
Sure, we still likely won’t end up with a .500 or above overall record but this game will no doubt end up in the “permanent memory vault” and I thoroughly look forward to the next win over the Spartans in 2015…