MSU facility has seen some great moments
Breslin Center has seen many great moments — both in and outside of the sports world — since it opened in 1989. The building, which opened on Nov. 9, 1989, hosted an early celebration open house for its 20th anniversary this past Wednesday. In honor of all the great memories at Breslin Center, The State News sports desk pulled the brain trust together to rank the Top 10 moments in Breslin Center history.
10. Garth Brooks concert — The two concerts played by Garth Brooks at Breslin Center on Sept. 10, 1992 were more than concerts — they were events. Fans began lining up at 5:45 a.m., Ticketmaster sold out in 23 minutes and the concert was declared a sellout by midafternoon. Brooks, who set numerous sales and concert attendance records in the 1990s, saw many wild nights, but told The Associated Press his night at Breslin Center was “the wildest night of my career.”
9. Mateen Cleaves’ jersey retirement — Cleaves is the gold standard when it comes to defining MSU basketball players in the Tom Izzo era. The leader of the “Flintstones” and the 2000 national championship team, Cleaves is among the greatest Spartans ever. On Feb. 10, 2007, Cleaves’ No. 12 jersey was raised to the rafters with other MSU greats. Cleaves and MSU head coach Tom Izzo — whose son’s middle name is Mateen — wept uncontrollably. “The best two feelings I’ve ever had was winning the national championship and that feeling there,” Cleaves said that day. “I’m just in awe. I’m very grateful and very thankful.”
8. 2004-05 women’s basketball season — The Spartans had grown considerably in the first four seasons under head coach Joanne P. McCallie, but 2004-05 was the season that put the MSU women’s basketball program on the map. On Feb. 20, 2005, MSU hosted No. 2 Ohio State — who had beaten them earlier — in front of 14,066 fans, the first sellout in program history. The Spartans won, 66-64, and three days later throttled Michigan, 77-34, to clinch the Big Ten Championship.
7. Class of 2000 Senior Day — If it wasn’t the most talented class in MSU men’s basketball history, it certainly was the most decorated. Cleaves, Morris Peterson, and A.J. Granger already had led the Spartans to one Final Four, and in just a month, the group would lead MSU to its second NCAA Championship. But on the mind of MSU fans on March 4, 2000, was that these three players were going to be playing their last game at Breslin Center, against rival Michigan.
The game epitomized what these four Spartans had come to be known for — success. The Spartans rolled over U-M, 114-63, and Cleaves, Peterson and Granger kissed the “S” as they left the Breslin Center court for the last time.
6. Beating No. 1 Wisconsin — 2006-07 was supposed to be a down year for the MSU men’s basketball program. But on Feb. 20, 2007, No. 1 Wisconsin — the program’s biggest rival — came to Breslin Center. Up, 51-49, with less than four minutes to go, the Badgers hit two free throws to tie the game. Drew Neitzel, MSU’s do-everything guard, answered with a tear dropper, then followed with the shot of the year — a 3-pointer from the top of the arc that rattled around the rim, bounced off the backboard and went through the hoop, sending the crowd into a frenzy. MSU went on to win, 64-55, defeating a No. 1-ranked team at home for the first time in program history.
5. Breslin’s first concert — On Feb. 21, 1990, Breslin Center made its mark by having Motown sensation Diana Ross play the first concert in the building.
4. Wyoming Park vs. Detroit Renaissance in 2004 — It was one of the most anticipated high school basketball games in state history. Wyoming Park had Neitzel, named Mr. Basketball just a week earlier. Detroit Renaissance had the two runners-up, Malik Hairston and Joe Crawford, two dynamite five-star players who were heading to Oregon and Kentucky, respectively. It was March 27, 2004, and Breslin Center was sold out, with tickets being scalped for as much as $50 for the Class B semifinal.
Neitzel single-handedly kept Wyoming Park in it, scoring 23 points in the first half. Neitzel finished with 36 in the 78-63 loss.
3. Women’s basketball team beating No. 1 Duke in 2009 NCCA Tournament — If the 2004-05 season began the Spartans’ ascent into national prominence under McCallie, this game solidified that second-year head coach Suzy Merchant would keep them there. In one corner was McCallie, who left for Duke after the 2006-07 season for what she deemed her dream job. In the other was Merchant, a Michigan native and former Eastern Michigan head coach, who eagerly took McCallie’s spot. Resentment for McCallie was strong after she bolted, and the 5,179 fans at Breslin Center on March 24, 2009, were rocking.
The No. 9-seed Spartans jumped out to a six-point lead with a 14-4 run and led by five at halftime. The Blue Devils took a short lead in the second half, but Duke didn’t make a shot in the last seven-and-a-half minutes, as the Spartans won 63-49. The crowd stormed the court as the Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16.
2. Bill Clinton’s visit — On Jan. 9, 2001, President Clinton spoke in front of a crowd of 11,500 at Breslin Center. It was Clinton’s fifth trip to MSU — third while president — and he discussed the state of the economy and praised the state of Michigan for supporting him. He also honored the 2000 men’s basketball national championship team.
“Clinton is the first sitting president to visit MSU three times during his tenure,” then-MSU President M. Peter McPherson said at the time. “Obviously he has a great affection for MSU.”
1. Shawn Respert kissing the “S” — On March 11, 1995, the sweet-shooting Respert played his final game at Breslin Center in a 97-72 win against Wisconsin. On his way out of the game, he made his way to center court, dropped down and kissed the “S.” The now heartfelt tradition has become a Senior Day staple among departing players, and started with perhaps the best player in Spartan history. Respert sits atop MSU’s all-time scoring list with 2,531 points.