Saturday, October 16, 2021

Spartan loss ends home-winning streak

January 14, 2002
Students rush the court Saturday at Breslin Center after freshman guard Kelvin Torbert made a game-ending shot that would have given the Spartans the win. The shot was ruled no good by officials because Torbert possessed the ball with fewer than .04 seconds remaining. The Spartans lost 64-63. —

Who would have thought the day would come?

In a 64-63 heartbreaker against Wisconsin Saturday, the inevitable happened. MSU’s home-winning streak - the nation’s longest active streak at 53 wins - ended in a blink of an eye.

“It was disappointing to see this streak end, but it was a great streak,” MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo said. “There were a lot of good times to it and we’re going to try and start a new streak.”

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said Sunday the end of the streak is related to MSU’s youth and lack of depth.

With players such as Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph making the early jump to the NBA, it’s hard for any program to keep the winning momentum, Vitale said.

“It’s never good to lose at home, Tom Izzo will tell you that,” Vitale said. “It’s a game you feel you should win there. With a team that’s not very deep, it’s been a tough time for them. North Carolina is going through a tough time also.”

The Tarheels have recently taken a step back from the Dean Smith era with a 1-4 (5-8 overall) record in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last season, they enjoyed a 26-7 record, but exited the NCAA Tournament in the second round.

MSU (9-7 overall, 0-3 Big Ten) places first all-time in the Big Ten for its home-win streak, ahead of Indiana (1991-95) and Ohio State (1959-63), each with 50 wins.

The last home loss for the Spartans came at the hands of Purdue on March 1, 1998, when it beat MSU 99-96 in overtime.

Junior forward Adam Ballinger’s first season was the following year - he witnessed the beginning of the 53-game streak. Ballinger redshirted the season with a leg injury, but played eight minutes in win No. 1 against Northeast Louisiana.

Being on the team that ended the streak leaves an unsettling feeling, he said.

“I felt awful because all the guys that have played so long and played hard here and kept it going, and to be the team that ends the streak is something you don’t want to be remembered for,” Ballinger said. “But I don’t think this team will be remembered for that.

“We just need to do some soul searching. I just look back to the guys that got it going and feel bad for them.”

For sophomore guard Marcus Taylor, the streak began when he was a junior at Lansing’s Waverly High School.

Despite being a prep, Taylor said seeing the end of the streak affects him more than anyone on the team because of the time he spent watching MSU at Breslin Center as well as the 16-0 home mark he was a part of as a freshman.

“It’s just disappointing for us, especially me because I’ve been here so long watching,” Taylor said.

Izzo said he’s uncertain of the effects Saturday’s loss has on his team. The mystique of Breslin is tarnished and the intimidation of the 13-year-old arena on opponents is now lost, he said.

“I don’t know if it’s as damaging to the team as it is to the other teams that feared coming here,” Izzo said. “There’s a chink in the armor now and I’m sure a lot of people won’t fear coming in here as much because of the game.

“And I’ve warned my guys that the home court is worth a lot and it’s worth about four more points here. So really in my eyes, we got beat by 12 or 13 instead of by one.”

Despite the Spartans’ stumble, the tradition of the nation’s longest active home-winning streak continues to survive in Michigan. With a 75-74 win over Wright State on Saturday, the University of Detroit improved its streak to 37.

Paul Day can be reached daypaul@msu.edu.

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