Without a doubt, winning on the road in the Big Ten and taking the conference crown takes toughness.
The MSU men’s basketball team’s 57-56 win against in-state rival Michigan on Tuesday night gave conference foes a glimpse into the minds of Spartan co-captains Kalin Lucas and Draymond Green to see a little bit of the toughness that MSU hopes will propel it to back-to-back Big Ten titles.
With 13:08 to play in the game, Green went down with an injury to his right knee and had to be taken back to the locker room. The sophomore forward, who has been credited as one of the brightest players in the league and had an important foul on U-M’s DeShawn Sims down the stretch, returned a few minutes later to stay on the floor for the Spartans.
“I’m not really worried about it now,” Green said. “I was when it first happened. I went back in and it felt pretty good. We’ll just see how it feels in the morning and go from there. I don’t think it’s anything serious — I think I just tweaked it. As I walked off the court and to the locker room, the pain started to settle down.”
Green finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
But more important to the final outcome was the blow Lucas took with 20 seconds to go when U-M’s Manny Harris inadvertently kicked Lucas in the face while Lucas was controlling the ball. The junior guard went down but coaches and players recognized that if trainers tended to him, he would have to leave the game during a crucial point.
“I was scared with Kalin because I knew we couldn’t win the game without him,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “The trainers wanted to go out there and I didn’t want to go out there. Once we went out there, I knew he had to come out. And I didn’t want that.
“But I didn’t want it to look like I didn’t care about him, so I was whispering sweet nothings in his ear.”
Whatever Izzo said worked, because Lucas got up and finished the job, having scored five of MSU’s final seven points en route to 12 points in the game. It’s now been 32 straight games that Lucas has scored in double-figures. And if you ask him, he may not have had those final two had he not been kicked in the head.
“It definitely made me shoot better,” Lucas said. “If I didn’t get kicked in the head, I probably would have missed it.”