Michigan State basketball picked up a big win over Kentucky on Tuesday night, sparking flashbacks to the last time that happened.
“Use the portal and adapt to the times.”
We were all yelling it in Michigan State basketball‘s offseason when Julius Marble transferred to Texas A&M.
“What are you thinking?” was a constant thought as Tom Izzo stuck to his 10 guys with a seemingly glaring hole at the five spot with the only returning player being Mady Sissoko who played limited minutes through two years.
Fast forward to Tuesday night and the Spartans pulled off the upset of the fourth-ranked team in the country in stunning fashion in double overtime. And Sissoko looks to be a budding star after two dominant performances versus unanimous preseason All-Americans in Drew Timme and Oscar Tshiebwe, leaving us all wondering why we questioned one of the greatest coaches and leaders of all time.
Games like the one Tuesday remind me just how great college basketball is and how lucky we are to be able to live in this golden age of Michigan State basketball for the last 25-plus years.
As a lifelong MSU fanatic, I naturally get flashbacks to teams/games, and seasons in my memory bank. To find the last time we beat Kentucky, you have to go back to the 2013 Champions Classic; a game that had quite a bit more hype and excitement coming into the season.
The Spartans came into the season ranked No. 2 in the country and had a meeting with the No. 1 Wildcats. Seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne led a loaded group with future pros Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, and Branden Dawson. The Spartans came out on fire, jumping to a 12-point halftime lead but the Wildcats would not go away. Led by Julius Randle’s 27 points, the game went down to the wire.
Dawson sealed the deal with a putback in the closing minute to give the Spartans the lead for good and a monster win to start the season. It got me thinking about what happened to that 2013-14 team.
The 2013 season was a rollercoaster of emotions. The start was as great as you could imagine using the momentum of the Champions Classic to jump out to an 18-1 start, staying in the top five for the first three months of the year.
Once we hit February, injuries derailed this team’s Big Ten championship hopes with Payne, Appling, Harris, and Dawson all missing significant time. Appling who had an all-American type year stalled out as he injured his wrist versus North Carolina and was never the same.
MSU finished 10-7 after the hot start with a 28-8 record (12-6 in the Big Ten) finishing third, losing three of the last four with the punch in the gut of a regular season sweep to the school down the road watching them get through the season as Big Ten champs.
But as the calendar flipped to March, a healthier MSU made amends for their regular season falters and dominated the Big Ten Tournament, capping it off with sweet revenge over the Wolverines in a 69-55 championship win. The run looked to continue as the Spartans were awarded a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Momentum is an incredible thing and Payne had it, leading off MSU’s run with a 41-point showing against Delaware. In the second round, the Spartans got to face a scrappy Harvard team, but Dawson put the Crimson away with a dominant 26-and-six performance.
The red-hot Spartans were not done as No. 1 seed Virginia was waiting in the Sweet 16. Dawson was not ready to go home as he followed up his Round of 32 outburst with a 24-and-10 performance that saw the Spartans move on, 61-59.
Tom Izzo was showing why he earned the nickname “Mr. March” as the Spartans had an Elite Eight matchup with UConn and point guard Shabazz Napier. Izzo came into this game 6-1 in Elite Eight games, an almost unheard-of record as Payne and Appling were trying to keep his streak of every senior class making the Final Four. Sadly, the Spartan magic ran out as the seven-seed and eventual national champion UConn wreaked havoc, turning MSU over 16 times and getting it into foul trouble as the Huskies got to the line 22 times, making 21 of them. UConn beat MSU and ended an incredible run by Izzo’s program.
Sadly, the stars Appling Payne and Dawson combined for only 16 points putting a sour end to the tremendous season.
The disappointment was not the lasting memory of this season but rather the action of Payne in regard to his bond with Lacey Holsworth, an 8-year-old with a rare form of cancer, was. She was like a little sister to Adreian and the whole Spartan family as she inspired us all with her battle with cancer. The images I’ll always remember were Payne bringing Lacey out on Senior Day and up the ladder as he cut down the net at the Big Ten Tournament. Rest in Piece to both Lacey and Adreian, and thank you for the memories and inspiration you gave all of Spartan Nation.
Stay tuned for more memories and Go Green.