Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Gators look to take down cagers winning streak after championship defeat

December 6, 2000
A Spartan fan cheers against Florida during the NCAA national championship game at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis earlier this year. MSU beat Florida 89-76 in the title game. —

Andre Hutson knows what it’s like to play a road game in a hostile environment.

He doesn’t like it.

The senior forward is pleased opposing players feel that same wrath when they play in Breslin Student Events Center, where the 5-0 Spartans have won 32 consecutive games, the second-longest run in Division I.

Tonight at 7, the 3-0 Florida Gators will try to snap MSU’s streak in a rematch of last year’s national championship game, which MSU won 89-76.

“I feel we have the best crowd,” Hutson said. “The crowd really gives us a big lift, they get our adrenaline pumping. It also drains the other team. I remember my freshman year going places where the crowd was just bearing down on (us). It feels like they just take your strength away or something.”

Florida head coach Billy Donovan said the Gators will be ready for the difficult surroundings.

“We know it’ll be a hostile environment up there,” Donovan said. “We’ve had a chance to play in tough places before, and we’re going up there to win.”

Last year, MSU played its tough nonconference foes on the road. The Spartans played at North Carolina, Arizona and Kentucky. Games against Kansas and Texas were on neutral courts.

After paying its dues on the road, MSU was rewarded this year with home contests versus Florida and the Tar Heels, whom they beat 77-64 Nov. 29.

Sophomore guard Jason Richardson said it’s nice to finally host the powerhouses.

“It’s great to have big games at home,” said Richardson, who is averaging a team-high 17.2 points per game. “It gives you a little extra confidence.”

Freshman guard Marcus Taylor said it will take more than a loud crowd to beat the No. 8 Gators.

“I think Coach Izzo scheduled this game because Florida will be a tough test for us,” Taylor said. “The crowd will help us out a lot. When we’re down, they pick us up. We need that home-crowd advantage.”

Senior guard Charlie Bell smiles when he speaks about the crowd he’s played in front of the last four years.

“It helps us a lot, especially when you have the Izzone (MSU’s student spirit section) jumping up and down,” said Bell, who is averaging 16.4 points a game. “You definitely want to keep them going, and when we’re down they keep us going.”


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