Saturday, May 18, 2024

Thanks for the memories

April 2, 2001
Senior forward Andre Hutson tries to get an open look past Arizona forward Justin Wessel on Saturday during MSU’s NCAA semifinal game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. The Spartans ended their third-straight Final Four appearance with an 80-61 loss to the Arizona Wildcats.

MINNEAPOLIS - Saturday’s semifinal loss to Arizona brought closure to the most decorated senior class in Spartan history, just not the ending it dreamed of.

“Well, I mean it’s tough for anybody to, you know, go out losing, especially after all we’ve accomplished,” senior forward Andre Hutson said. “But we just have to take it like that.”

The pain expressed on Hutson’s face was evident to all in the locker room afterward, and shared by the entire senior class. The 80-61 loss to the Wildcats took a backseat in the minds of all the underclassman, as everyone realized something special had come to an end.

“It’s disappointing,” freshman guard Marcus Taylor said. “We wanted them to go out on top.”

At one point, freshman center Zach Randolph asked to be excused from interviews so he could console his friend and mentor, Hutson.

Hutson sat alone in front of his locker. His head was buried in his hands as he wept quietly. The image was a vast contradiction to the season, and career, of MSU’s 2000-01 senior class - Charlie Bell, David Thomas, Mike Chappell, Brandon Smith and Hutson.

Its 115 wins are the most by any class in Big Ten history. Its 44-game home winning streak is the best in the nation and only Stanford (37) and Duke (31) have been ranked in the top 10 longer than MSU’s 27 consecutive weeks. Its four straight regular-season Big Ten Championships, three straight Final Four appearances and four straight 20-win seasons are all school records. And let us not forget MSU’s second-ever NCAA Championship it won last year.

“I couldn’t say in words how much I appreciate what they’ve done for our program, our university or for me personally,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “We’re going to miss them. It’s not going to be the same without them. Those guys don’t come around all the time.”

Arizona center Loren Woods said the achievements of MSU’s seniors are unquestionable.

However, he said the statistics don’t tell what kind of people they are.

“They’re great players, but they’re also good people,” he said. “After the game all of them were saying good game and good luck in the future. Both of these teams have a great respect for each other.”

Hutson’s team-high 20-point performance was typical of his season, in which he was MSU’s silent leader and backbone. He will graduate in May with a finance degree. In fact, every one of MSU’s seniors will graduate.

Thomas also enjoyed a good performance in his final game, with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, five rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes of play.

However, the same could not be said of the others.

Chappell and Smith combined for just two points in limited action, and Bell struggled. He scored just three points on 1-of-10 shooting with three assists and five turnovers.

However, he did pull down a game-high 10 rebounds.

“A lot of those guys didn’t have their best games tonight,” Izzo said. “I wish they could have had a better game for the stage we were on. I don’t remember those guys playing like that in four years. That’s what is really disappointing to me.”

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