Michigan State has canceled all sports activities as our community deals with the COVID-19 crisis. In a time when sports have ceased, The State News is looking back at great moments in Michigan State sports history. Soon, we’ll be back to a world with sports, but for now the past will have to do.
Today we’ll be going back to 2005 and riding along on the men's basketball team's NCAA tournament run. We'll be highlighting two games, the Sweet Sixteen victory that brought Head Coach Tom Izzo his first win over Duke and the Elite Eight double-overtime thriller against Kentucky.
We’ll be compiling these moments into a bracket with the MSU community voting on the best one, starting on April 1, via Twitter.
Date: March 25, 2005 & March 27, 2005
Venue: Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas
Matchup: 5-seeded Michigan State vs. 1-seeded Duke and 5-seeded Michigan State vs. 2-seeded Kentucky
The background: Losing in a first round upset to Nevada the year prior, the 2005 Spartan team was hungry for redemption in the NCAA tournament.
MSU’s 2005 team was led by senior Alan Anderson (13.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game) along with juniors Maurice Ager and Paul Davis and sophomore Shannon Brown. They began and ended their season ranked No. 13 in the country, but that didn’t come without some fluctuation in true MSU style.
Michigan State started their season at 3-2 and dropped to No. 20 in the rankings. Eventually the Spartans found their rhythm to end with a 22-5 record overall.
Their momentum entering the post-season was halted when they tripped up in the Big Ten tournament in a loss to Iowa in the quarterfinals.
Sweet Sixteen: After losing to Duke in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge earlier that season, the Spartans met the Blue Devils again in a Sweet Sixteen matchup of the NCAA tournament.
The first half stood fairly evenly matched, with the two entering halftime tied at 32.
To start the second half Anderson sunk a three, marking the start to an electric 8-0 Spartan run. Next, Brown brought through a layup and followed on the next possession sinking a three from the left wing, forcing Duke to take a timeout and claiming MSU’s first lead of the game.
MSU’s defense played a key role in pushing Duke’s JJ Redick out of scoring position, holding the Blue Devils' leading man to just 13 points while also forcing Duke to commit 22 turnovers.
With just over two minutes remaining, Duke pulled it within three. Looking to shorten it by more, Redick carried the ball up the paint but MSU's defense forced him to throw it out of bounds.
From there, for MSU Davis shot his way through a contested layup that earned him a chance at the line. The three-point play ultimately pulled the Spartans away until they were able to take the game 78-68.
The win marked coach Tom Izzo's first victory over the Blue Devils and the program's first win since 1958. It was Izzo's only win over Duke until the Spartans Elite Eight victory over them in 2019.
Elite Eight: Two days later, with Izzo’s first win over Duke under his belt, MSU stepped back out onto the same court, this time to compete against 2-seeded Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
Similarly to MSU’s matchup against Duke, the first half started as a fairly back and forth affair with Kentucky leading by four at the half.
Early in the second, a steal by Ager, led to a 3-on-1 fast-break play for the Spartans. Ager passed to Kelvin Torbert who lobbed it back to Ager who shot it down to give the Spartans a three-point lead.
From there the Spartans and more specifically Brown felt the energy. Brown shot 5 for 6 from the three and 8 for 10 overall, scoring 24 points that helped the Spartans pull away late.
Michigan State claimed a 70-62 lead with five minutes remaining until Kentucky rallied to find their way back. A perfect performance at the line for Brown brought the Spartans a three-point lead until Kentucky sunk a third-chance contested three at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, tied at 75.
The first overtime showed some shooting struggles for the Spartans, but their dominance on the offensive boards saved them from dropping the game. Kentucky claimed the last possession of the first OT but couldn’t get a shot up before the buzzer. It was time for double overtime, tied at 81.
A putback by Davis following a missed layup by Anderson secured the Spartans an early five-point lead in the second overtime. Kentucky seemed to run out of gas as MSU continued to rally behind Anderson's nine rebounds and 13 points.
Ultimately, free throw shooting defined the ending, as 11 of MSU's 13 points in the second overtime came from the free throw line. The Spartans won one of their most thrilling games in March 94-88 against Kentucky and sent themselves to their fourth Final Four under Izzo.
The aftermath: Appearing in their fourth Final Four in seven years, MSU took on 1-seeded North Carolina for a spot in the title game. The Spartans led at the half 38-33 but were outscored in the second, leading to an ultimate 87-71 loss to the Tar Heels.
North Carolina went on to win the championship game against Illinois.