Friday, June 5, 2020

Great moments in MSU sports history: Izzo's seventh Final Four

March 24, 2020
Head coach Tom Izzo, his family and his team celebrate the win with the NCAA East Regional trophy March 29, 2015, during the East Regional round of the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight against Louisville at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. The Spartans defeated the Cardinals, 76-70. Photo by Erin Hampton. Design by Daena Faustino.
Head coach Tom Izzo, his family and his team celebrate the win with the NCAA East Regional trophy March 29, 2015, during the East Regional round of the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight against Louisville at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. The Spartans defeated the Cardinals, 76-70. Photo by Erin Hampton. 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.

Date: March 29, 2015.

Venue: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York.

Matchup: Michigan State (7-seed) vs. Louisville (4-seed).

The background: The Spartans’ national title aspirations came to screeching halt in a loss to UConn in the Elite Eight the year prior. After one of the most disappointing regular seasons under Tom Izzo, one that included a home loss to Texas Southern and the benching of Travis Trice in favor of freshman Lourawls Nairn Jr., MSU entered the Big Ten Tournament at 21-10. The Spartans made a run to the Big Ten title game, but Branden Dawson missed the would-be game winner at the buzzer, and they fell to Frank Kaminsky’s Wisconsin Badgers in overtime. After defeating 10-seed Georgia, 7-seed MSU faced Virginia in the tournament for the second year in a row. Travis Trice put on a show, recording 23 points, making it apparent this would be a tournament run to remember. The next year’s national player of the year frontrunners would face off in the Sweet 16, as Denzel Valentine’s Spartans drew Buddy Hield’s 3-seeded Sooners, but it was Trice who stole the show again with 24 points in a 62-58 victory. 

The Game: The 4-seeded Louisville Cardinals sat at 5-3 all time against MSU coming into the East Regional final. Louisville’s electric backcourt of Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear proved problematic all game, as Rozier dominated the fast break on four steals and Blackshear had a game-high 28 points. Freshman forward and eventual transfer Marvin Clark Jr. had five points on 18 minutes, but no two bigger than those that came through contact with 40 seconds to tick to give MSU a 65-64 lead. With 10 seconds remaining, Rozier slashed. Mangok Mathiang grabbed the rebound put up the follow, which found every part of the rim before harmlessly falling to the floor. The then-48% free throw shooter clanked the first off the back iron, as the ball elevated over the backboard and in, to the disbelief of Magic Johnson spectating. The second hit the back iron once again, but Mathiang’s percentage held true, as the shot fell off the rim. We were headed to overtime. MSU didn’t look back. Bryn Forbes hit one of four threes on the day to start the extra period. With 30 seconds to go, Forbes missed from three, but Dawson’s falling put-back put MSU up 74-70. Valentine would force a turnover into the hands of Trice, whose two free throws sealed Izzo’s seventh trip to the Final Four in a 76-70 victory.

The Aftermath: MSU headed to Indianapolis to face 1-seeded Duke and the former three-headed freshman monster of Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow. Izzo regressed to 1-9 against Coach K in a game that was seemingly over before it started. Duke’s athletes, two of which Izzo sought heavily (Okafor and Jones) proved too much for MSU’s Cinderella lineup once again, handling the Spartans 81-61. The Blue Devils went on to defeat Wisconsin, who took down the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats, in the national title game.

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