Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Best memory: Spartans win one for Lucas

Junior guard Durrell Summers hugs sophomore guard Korie Lucious after the 85-83 victory over Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Summers scored 26 points in the game, and Lucious made a 3-pointer for the win.

Photo by File photo | The State News

Editor’s note: This is the final of a five-part series looking back on the year that was in MSU athletics.

There are facets of sports — box scores, strategies, averages — that routinely show up on the surface of all games, big or small.

Then there are other pieces of the puzzle — moments of adversity, conflict, raw emotion and struggle — that can’t be found on paper, and scribes like me have the unenviable task of putting them into words.

For a brief moment in March, the MSU men’s basketball team made a quiet movement that spoke volumes and embodied so many of those latter components of a game: Enduring adversity and pain, resolving conflict and demonstrating incredible camaraderie and emotion.

Junior guard Kalin Lucas had just left the Spartans’ second-round NCAA Tournament game with a season-ending ruptured Achilles’ tendon in his left leg. Although the Spartans were leading 48-39 going into halftime, the loss of their leader weighed heavily on them and head coach Tom Izzo.

With Lucas lying down in a small trainer’s room at Spokane Arena, teammates entered one by one and promised they’d win the game for him.

“When Kalin went down, we all rallied around him and told him, ‘Hey, no matter with or without you, we got your back,’” said sophomore guard Korie Lucious, the man who filled in for Lucas in his absence.

“‘We’re going to get this win for you.’”

With Lucas on the bench with a boot on his left foot, it was Lucious who made the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to send MSU to the Sweet 16.

In all the commotion on the floor surrounding Lucious after the game, lost was the embrace that Lucas and Izzo shared near the bench. A fallen player, held by the man that embodies the team that vowed to take him to the next round.

2. Larry Caper’s overtime touchdown

It was as though the Spartan gods looking down opened the sky just as the MSU football team offensive line opened the hole. Just enough room for the freshman running back to scamper into the end zone. Just enough room for the sun to shine through.

On a dreary October afternoon filled with clouds and scattered rainfall, Larry Caper took a third-down handoff right, went around the line, broke one tackle and found a hole.

The overtime run gave MSU a 26-20 win against rival Michigan for the second straight season. Fans stayed in their seats after the game, yelling “Go Green, Go White” across the stadium as players celebrated on the field.

As the clock showed zero and fans started to trickle out of Spartan Stadium, the sun shone down on a player who helped his team win its second consecutive game against the faded Champions of the West.

3. Corey Tropp’s game-winning goal against U-M

A year removed from an ugly incident against U-M, the junior forward returned to MSU with a vengeance and renewed spirit. One of the nation’s leaders in points all season, he took it to the Wolverines in a 3-2 win in Ann Arbor, his first game against the Wolverines since the incident.

With the score tied 1-1 and just under four minutes to play in the second period, Tropp took a pass from sophomore defenseman Matt Crandell for the go-ahead score and eventual game-winner.

In an arena where he and his teammates would be berated all night, Tropp gave the Spartans a reason to walk out of Yost Ice Arena with their heads held high.

4. Avery Steinlage breaks shutout record

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This moment lasted 1,318 minutes and 26 seconds and had been brewing over the course of two seasons. The junior goalkeeper broke the NCAA record for consecutive minutes without allowing a score in the Spartans’ Sept. 6 game against Illinois-Chicago. It endured more than three more games until it snapped Sept. 20 against San Diego.

5. Heyboer, women’s soccer team celebrate with Sinacola

Overtime wins against conference rivals mean enough by themselves. But when sophomore forward Laura Heyboer netted the game-winning goal against Penn State on Sept. 27 for a 3-2 win at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field, it was the celebration that followed that was memorable. After Heyboer’s goal, the entire team ran over to senior midfielder Lauren Sinacola to celebrate. Sinacola, who scored earlier in the game and went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament with a minute left in regulation, missed the rest of the season.

Joey Nowak is a State News sports writer who just penned his final piece in a four-year career. Thanks to all the readers who still can reach him at nowakjo2@msu.edu..

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