Bloomington, Ind. — A long four years ended fittingly for the seniors on the MSU men’s basketball team, as their hard work on the court culminated in a regular
season Big Ten Championship on Tuesday night. The Spartans clinched their first outright Big Ten title since 1999 with a 64-59 victory over Indiana at Assembly Hall. Senior guard Travis Walton said the game validated the hard work he and his fellow seniors put in together.
“We’re the first team in school history with eight road victories,” Walton said. “To come out on the road in that environment and win, it’s a dream.”
Walton said the team’s main goal this season is still a Final Four trip to Ford Field in Detroit, and a regular season conference championship was a benchmark along the way.
“We get a championship ring and it’s totally ours,” he said. “It just shows that we can get out there and win the game, no matter how tough it is.”
No quit in the Hoosiers
Despite Indiana nearing the end of one of the worst seasons in the storied program’s history, the Hoosiers (6-23, 1-16) refused to give in. Much like in their first meeting on Feb. 7 at Breslin Center, Indiana made the game interesting, this time until the very end.
Head coach Tom Izzo said his team didn’t match the energy of the Hoosiers, who were playing on Senior Night.
“I think to be a great team, you have to be able to handle a big win and then bounce back,” Izzo said.
“They knew (Indiana head coach Tom Crean) was going to have his team ready to play, and I look at Indiana’s energy and I see that team is on the up.”
Sophomore guard Kalin Lucas, who led the Spartans with 15 points, said Izzo talked of Indiana’s persistence earlier in the week.
“We knew they were gonna play us hard, they were gonna play us tough,” Lucas said. “They was gonna bring their ‘A’ game. Only thing we had to do was keep playing our game and keep playing hard.”
Time to pay up
The questions first started flying Friday immediately following Michigan’s 87-78 upset of second place Purdue: Would Izzo follow through on his preseason promise to shave his head if his team won the a Big Ten Championship?
Izzo first made the promise during the Izzone campout before the season started.
Now that the Spartans have clinched the title, Izzo said he’d have to keep his word.
“I’m not going to embarrass my team,” Izzo said of going clean shaven before the NCAA Tournament. “I don’t want to embarrass my wife, either.”
Senior forward Marquise Gray said he was looking forward to seeing his coach hairless, even though he didn’t anticipate it being a good look.
“I think he’s going to look pretty funny,” Gray said.
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