Thursday, July 2, 2020

Great moments in MSU sports history: Lucious buzzer beater

March 22, 2020
Then-junior guard Korie Lucious reacts to a foul called in the second half of Saturday's game against Northwestern at the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Wildcats in overtime, 71-67. Photo by Lauren Wood. Design by Daena Faustino.
Then-junior guard Korie Lucious reacts to a foul called in the second half of Saturday's game against Northwestern at the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Wildcats in overtime, 71-67. Photo by Lauren Wood. Design by Daena Faustino. —

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.

We'll be compiling these moments into a bracket with the MSU community voting on the best one, starting on April 1, via Twitter.

Today, we'll be looking at the 2010 second-round matchup in the men's basketball NCAA tournament between Michigan State and Maryland. This one had a memorable ending.

Date: March 21st, 2010 

Venue: Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Washington 

Matchup: Michigan State (5-seed Midwest) vs. Maryland (4-seed Midwest) 

The background: A year after making a run to the Final Four just one season before, the Spartans looked primed for another run yet again. With an experienced core of veterans in Raymar MorganKalin Lucas and Durrell Summers paired with a group of blossoming youngsters in Draymond GreenDelvon Roe, and Korie Lucious Michigan State found themselves with a No. 2 ranking in the preseason AP poll.  

After starting the season with a 19-3 record (9-0 in the Big Ten) the Spartans were putting themselves back in position from where they were just a year ago.  

Then things took a turn. 

Michigan State went on to finish 5-5 in Big Ten play, including an overtime loss to Minnesota in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.  

The Spartans entered the NCAA Tournament as a #5 seed in the Midwest region and took on #12 New Mexico State in the first round. Despite leading by as much as sixteen in the first half, the Aggies battled back and even held a lead with six minutes remaining in the game. Lucas would not let the team fall early, scoring an efficient 25 points en route to a 70-67 victory to avoid the classic 5-12 upset in the first round. 

The game: Little did we know that Michigan State and Maryland would become regular opponents in just a few years, as Maryland was still in the Atlantic Coast Conference at the time. The Terrapins were having one of the best seasons since their national title run in 2002. Led by star senior point guard Greivis Vasquez and a tenured Head Coach in Gary Williams, the stars seemed to be aligned for the Terrapins.  

Early in the first half, the Spartans got out early on the behalf of a hot shooting start for Summers and Morgan. A running floater from Lucas put the Spartans up nine with two minutes left, but something was not quite right.  

Lucas came up limp and hobbled back to play defense before an injury timeout was called. He would not return for the rest of the game as Spartan fans held their breath on the injury status of their star guard. 

This wasn’t the only injury the Spartans had in the mix either, as starting shooting guard Chris Allen was out after the first four minutes with a nagging foot injury and Roe playing on a torn meniscus. 

To begin the second half, Summers came out inspired, scoring 14 points in the first seven minutes of the second half to build a sixteen-point lead. The Spartans looked to be on their way to another Sweet Sixteen appearance. 

Vasquez and the Terrapins would not go down without a fight.  

After grinding their way back within nine with two minutes to go, Vasquez began to show why he was named ACC Player of the Year. With two minutes left, Vasquez went on a blaze of fury to bring the Terrapins back in it.  

Scoring six points to bring the Terrapins back in it, Vasquez called for it. He drove down the lane and scored the go-ahead bucket with just under 40 seconds remaining. 

Green then took over, shooting a mid-range jumper to take the lead right back. The ACC Player of the Year would not be deterred, as he drove and spun his way into yet another go-ahead layup with 6.6 seconds remaining.

MSU coach Tom Izzo had a timeout in his pocket but chose not to use it. Call it blind faith or insight to the game of basketball, Izzo chose to trust his team. Up to this point, Lucious had been quiet in the absence of Lucas. 

Green took the inbounds pass and drove it up the floor, picked up his dribble and kicked it out to Lucious at the top of the key. He put the ball on the floor, rose up for the shot and sunk it as the clock hit zero. Pandemonium in Spokane.

The aftermath: In the postgame press conference, Izzo told the media that Lucas had ruptured his Achilles, making the nightmares of many Spartan fans come true. Despite that, Michigan State would go on to defeat Northern Iowa in the Sweet Sixteen, a team that had defeated No. 1 seeded Kansas earlier in the tournament. Then thanks to Summers’ 21 points, Michigan State advanced to their second straight Final Four after winning against Bruce Pearl’s Tennessee Volunteers.  

The Spartans now had to take on Brad Stevens' Butler Bulldogs in the Final Four, where the Bulldogs grinded out a 52-50 victory, ending the Spartans' injury-plagued run. 

As for Maryland, Vasquez would go onto a successful journeyman NBA career, and is now the associate head coach of the Erie Bayhawks, the G-League affiliate for the New Orleans Pelicans. Coach Williams coached Maryland for one more season before retiring and was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.  

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