Hoops team returns to hero's welcome at Breslin Center
Travis Walton strutted into Breslin Center early Wednesday morning with both arms raised holding up one finger with each hand.
The senior guard’s wait was finally over — he and the rest of the MSU men’s basketball team were Big Ten Champions.
About 1,000 members of the Izzone and MSU community came to Breslin Center late Tuesday night, staying through early Wednesday morning to greet the newly-crown Big Ten Champions following the Spartans’ 64-59 win over Indiana in Bloomington, Ind.
“I just want to personally thank ya’ll for sticking with us throughout this year,” Walton told the crowd. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we got through them and got to our goal of being Big Ten Champions.”
Fellow seniors Marquise Gray, Goran Suton and Idong Ibok joined Walton in thanking the crowd for helping the No. 8 Spartans (24-5 overall, 14-3 Big Ten) win their first Big Ten Championship since 2001, and first outright title since 1999.
Senior guard Travis Walton smiles before he speaks during a rally at Breslin Center early Wednesday morning. Hundreds of students took a break from midterm studying to welcome home the 2009 Big Ten Champions.
MSU men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo speaks to the crowd during a welcome-home rally early Wednesday morning at Breslin Center. With a victory over Indiana on Tuesday, the team secured sole possession of the Big Ten Championship.
“We play for a lot, but the students and the community is what is important to us the most,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo told the crowd, with a raspy voice. “I’m not sure we gave you a pretty game to see, but I’m not sure it matters.”
At about 10 p.m., Izzone co-directors sent an e-mail to the more than 3,000-person student section to alert them of the welcoming-back party. Local radio and TV stations also broadcast the news so others in the community could attend.
By 10:10 p.m., physics junior Danny Kimball was waiting outside the Breslin Center loading dock. About ten minutes later, astrophysics junior Eric King and nutritional science senior Matt Venney joined him as the first group of Izzone members ready to celebrate the win against the Hoosiers (6-23, 1-16).
The three were ecstatic over the play of the night, a tip-slam by junior forward Raymar Morgan with 27.5 seconds left to give the Spartans a four-point lead.
“I was biting my nails,” King said. “Then when Morgan had that dunk, and I thought ‘Holy crap.’ I was shocked. I was so happy. That has to be a (SportsCenter) Top Ten play.”
Comparative cultures and controversial politics junior Steven Book said even with mid-term week in full force, he made it a point to come and welcome the team.
“I wouldn’t miss this for anything in the world,” Book said. “This is what college is all about. It’s a tradition here at Michigan State to win championships and hopefully now we’ll get that back on track.”
Breslin Center staff allowed people into the arena at about 10:30 p.m. Sparty organized one-on-one games and other shooting contests on the Breslin Center floor for those in attendance.
While the Spartans’ regular season finale is at noon Sunday against Purdue, plans for MSU to unveil its championship banner and accept a Big Ten trophy have not been finalized.
In 2004, MSU had to beat Wisconsin to win the Big Ten Championship. Before the game, the Badgers noticed a championship banner that was ready to come down from the rafters.
Wisconsin went on to beat MSU, denying the Spartans a title. With that in mind, Izzo admitted even he wasn’t sure when a celebration would happen.
“I don’t know what we’ll do yet,” Izzo said. “I don’t think we’ll do anything Sunday. I’ve learned about that in the past. We might just have to wait and do something in the future.”