Izzone gave team extra push to pass Columbia
Dawson: 'They gave us life'
With a win over No. 1 Kentucky in the Champions Classic mere days prior and a real shot at reaching the top of the polls, the No. 2 MSU basketball team faced a 26-22 halftime deficit to Columbia at home Friday night.
Junior forward Branden Dawson had never experienced a quieter Breslin crowd at that moment.
“It was definitely quiet,” Dawson said. “We had 17 points, and it was like two, three minutes left. That’s when I knew, we definitely had to pick it up as a team, because this team is not going to back down.”
With the threat of a historic loss looming — some tweeters began to compare the game to the infamous 53-49 Wright State loss in 1999 — the Izzone showed why it is considered one of the best student sections in the nation.
Twice in the waning minutes of the game, the Izzone helped create two of Columbia’s 17 turnovers to help the Spartans pull away with a 62-53 win.
With 3:22 remaining in the second half and the Spartans holding on to a 55-53 lead, the Izzone backwards-counted the shot clock on a delay to trick the Lions into a violation.
About a minute later, the Izzone pulled the same trick. The student section started the shot clock count late, reaching six when the actual clock hit zero. The result was the same — a violation for Columbia.
Columbia head coach Kevin Smith called the Izzone the best-coached fans he had ever seen.
“They duped us,” he admitted during the after-game press conference. “They duped us on the backwards count.”
The MSU defense struggled to prevent Columbia from reaching the rim for layup attempts. But it was the defensive stand by the student section that ultimately sealed the game.
“The Izzone was a lot aggressive than the players on the floor,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought they did a hell of a job tonight … I almost got up and thanked them, but I didn’t want to embarrass anybody.”
Dawson said the Izzone was the reason the Spartans were able to mount the second-half comeback.
“They were very critical because they gave us life,” Dawson said of the shot clock violations. “We feed off the Izzone and the atmosphere, and we got it going. We just did what we have to do.”