“Shoot it,” Head Coach Tom Izzo said to graduate student guard Joshua Langford, who stood on the perimeter feet away from the MSU bench.
Langford didn’t have the ball yet, and on the plays that led up to it he coughed up a sloppy, bad pass turnover before fouling Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson on the other end.
Those were the two plays that brought Michigan within two points of MSU, but those weren’t the plays that defined Langford’s night.
Langford heard his coach, and after catching a pass from junior forward Aaron Henry he did exactly what Izzo said.
He shot it, and the three went down like water to ultimately solidify MSU’s 70-64 win over the Wolverines on Sunday afternoon at the Breslin.
"I practice that shot so much by myself, and I’ve seen myself hit that those kinds of shots before," Langford said of the play. "... The whole bench was like ‘shoot it,’ my self-conscious mind said ‘shoot it,’ my instincts said ‘shoot it,’ so I shot it."
Izzo watched from the sideline as the ball left Langford's fingertips, soaring toward the bucket before finding it's home in the basket without scraping the rim.
"It was as picture-perfect as you could get," Izzo said. "I’m looking right at the ball, right at his head, right at the rim and it was in the whole way.”
Langford has consistently preached staying “in the moment” all season. This mantra paid off in his big-time bucket, especially given the sub-par night he had leading up to it.
“Having that turnover and then turning around and hitting that three, I think that’s just years of playing and realizing that the game continues,” Langford said. “I could have easily could have been thinking about that turnover and because I was so focused on the last play I could have taken myself out of the current play and missed that shot, and so I just wanted to continue to keep giving my all on the court and having a short memory.”
Henry, who kicked the pass to Langford said he had trust and confidence in his fellow captain to put down the crunch-time bucket when the Spartans needed it most.
“I kicked it right to Josh, and Josh hit it," Henry said. "I didn’t hesitate at all when I passed it to him. I knew if it was going up it was going in. I didn’t think much of it. Josh has been doing that for a while.”
In his five years, Langford has seen close games, he’s seen final minute buzzer-beaters and in fact, he’s even seen a senior night before. But his bucket on Sunday marked arguably the biggest in his career, done in front of the biggest Breslin Center crowd of the 2020-21 season and the smallest senior day crowd the arena may ever see.
Izzo said both of Langford's parents made the trip from Alabama to watch Sunday's game live.
"Not to be goofy, but I looked up at the heavens and said ‘If there’s ever a kid who deserved to have some success ... it was Josh," Izzo said. "... It was just like it was meant to be. I'm not that way all the time, but if there’s ever a guy that I just said 'Wow that’s supposed to happen,' it was that shot, that kid for all he's given me and all he's been through.”
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