Seniors Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins reflect on the end
MINNEAPOLIS — With 19 seconds left in Michigan State’s 61-51 Final Four loss to Texas Tech, coach Tom Izzo decided to pull the plug. He had asked so much of his two-man senior class — guard Matt McQuaid and forward Kenny Goins — that to ask for another 19 seconds, when defeat was all but certain, felt wrong.
“I just thanked him,” Izzo said, of his brief conversation with Goins. “Same with McQuaid. I just thanked him for what he gave us, and I’m a huggy-feely type of guy.”
The seniors had different paths to this final moment. McQuaid was a well-regarded recruit out of the Dallas suburbs who burst onto the scene with game-winning plays in the first game of his career, a Champions Classic victory over Kansas. Goins was a walk-on from Troy, a Spartan fan who redshirted and paid his own way for his freshman season before earning a starting role four years later as a graduate student.
Both journeys ended on the raised court at U.S. Bank Stadium in ways they certainly didn’t envision. Goins, a week removed from the game-winning three to beat Duke in the East regional final, didn’t score against Texas Tech’s relentless defense. McQuaid was hampered by calf cramps and airballed two jumpers, while missing a wide-open three that would have tied the game with 1:50 remaining.
When McQuaid did exit the game, he said the moment between him and Izzo was special.
“He just hugged me and just said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and I told him, ‘I’m sorry,’ and we just hugged,” McQuaid said. “I got a special relationship with Coach. One thing I’m going to miss the most is, when I get done working out during the day, just going up before class or after class, I come work out, and I go up to his office and talk to him for like five minutes, and we just talk about family or what I need to get better at ... I love Coach, and he’s done so much for me and helped me so much. I know he’s got my back, and I’ve got his back for the rest of our life.”
Freshman forward Aaron Henry referenced the highs of the tournament run when asked about the seniors.
“It’s not goodbye forever, but it’s a goodbye for them being in the jersey next to me and it hurts,” he said. “I’ll miss the stuff we’ve been through — the practices, the weightlifting, all the games we’ve been down in and came back and won, the big shots they hit. Those celebrations I’m just gonna miss more than anything.”
Sophomore forward Xavier Tillman said Goins set an example he intends to follow.
“That’s my brother,” Tillman said. “The toughness that he has, the confidence that he has, the leadership skills that he has. I learned so much from this year that I’m gonna bring to next year to help the new guys.”
Goins was gracious with reporters, but seemed almost in a fog, even after taking a long shower.
“It was a dream of mine to be here and I got to live out that dream,” Goins, who turned down scholarship offers from smaller Division I schools to wear the green-and-white, said. “So it just still feels like it was kind of a dream, and I am going to enjoy it, but you know, like I said, all dreams come to an end and then you gotta wake up eventually.”
Izzo appeared to get choked up when asked about his senior class.
“I feel bad for both of them,” Izzo said. “Kenny has grown here, but Matt was a bulldog from the day he came here. You know, Matt is the guy that I coined the phrase, ‘like it, love it, or live it.’ He lives it. … Kenny is a guy that’s grown to love the game. He’s gotten better each year, you know. And so I’ll be able to use both them as examples to hopefully those young guys.”
Though he will never suit up for MSU again, Goins dismissed the idea that his time as a Spartan was over.
“They’re still my brothers,” Goins said. “So off the court it doesn’t change — we’re still gonna hang out and everything and I’m gonna still come back and visit them and see them all the time because it is a lifetime thing.”