Thursday, May 23, 2024

Spartans face No. 25 Sooners

November 14, 2001
Sophomore guard marcus Taylor runs past Detroit-Mercy guard Jimmy Twyman Monday at Breslin Center. Despite losing many players to graduation, the team was able to rise up to the challenge and win the opening game of the Preseason NIT, 80-70 over the Titans. The win extended the nation’s longest home-winning streak to 45 games. The Spartans now face No. 25 oklahoma in the second round of the tournament at 9 p.m. today at Breslin Center.

Another familiar foe from the past will try to knock the No. 15 MSU men’s basketball team from the Preseason NIT, when the Spartans matchup with No. 25 Oklahoma at 9 tonight at Breslin Center.

The Sooners last collided with the Spartans in the regional semifinals of the 1999 NCAA Tournament - a game infamous for the literal collision between former Sooner forward Eduardo Najara and former Spartan guard Mateen Cleaves.

“I remember that game -that was tough,” sophomore guard Marcus Taylor said.

And even though he is in the same floor-leading role as Cleaves, Taylor said he isn’t too worried about any collisions.

“I can’t second-guess myself out there. And I still am going to have to play aggressive,” he said.

Sooners head coach Kelvin Sampson is no stranger to East Lansing. Sampson was a graduate assistant of former Spartan head coach Jud Heathcote during the Spartan’s 1979 NCAA Championship season and in the following year.

Sampson’s squad, which beat Central Connecticut State 66-44 on Monday in Norman, Okla., will meet a young Spartan squad fresh off its own season-opening victory, an 80-70 win over Detroit-Mercy on Monday.

Both games were part of the first round of the tournament.

Sooner guard Hollis Price led all scorers in the contest with 20 points behind six three-pointers. The team attempted 27 three-point shots in its win.

“The 27 threes a game they take is a little scary,” Spartan head coach Tom Izzo said. “They must feel that they can make that many.”

But Izzo said Detroit-Mercy also didn’t shy away from long jump shots and hopes the similarities in opponents will help his team prepare in the short time span.

“I’m most worried about the defensive pressure they could put on us,” he said. “I’m concerned on how we will handle that - that’s probably the biggest difference (between Oklahoma and Detroit-Mercy.)”

The Sooners added three junior-college players to their stable in the offseason, including guard Ebi Ere, picked as the Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year by the coaches and media.

“This team has a lot of new players, but they’re not freshmen, they’re JuCo players, which makes them a little more advanced,” Izzo said.

And the new look makes preparation a little more challenging for Izzo, who can only look at tape of last year’s Sooner team. Oklahoma’s first-round game in the Preseason NIT was not televised.

“They have a lot of new people who aren’t in the film from last year,” he said. “I haven’t seen any film on them, and they got to see our game last night.

“That’s what makes this a little tough on us.”

But regardless, Izzo said he expects his usual game - team defense, rebounding and stellar effort - to propel the team to a win and a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York for the tournament semifinals.

And his team seems focused to do just that.

“When you come out here, it’s to win games,” junior forward Al Anagonye said. “We have to take all these championships as serious as the big championships.

“It paves the way for the big championships.”

Taylor echoed Anagonye’s sentiment.

“Sure, we are going to gain experience with every game, but this is not just a learning experience,” Taylor said. “We’re looking to win a championship.”

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