Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Joshua Langford's final game as a Spartan comes in especially tough loss to UCLA

March 19, 2021
<p>WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. — MARCH 18: Jules Bernard (1) of the UCLA Bruins grabs a rebound against the Michigan State Spartans in the First Four round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men&#x27;s Basketball Tournament. (Photo credit: Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)</p>

WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. — MARCH 18: Jules Bernard (1) of the UCLA Bruins grabs a rebound against the Michigan State Spartans in the First Four round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. (Photo credit: Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Photo by Courtesy Photo | The State News

Emotion strung over the faces of MSU men's basketball players as they headed to the locker room after their 86-80 overtime loss to UCLA.

It was a game the Spartans had control of, then lost control of and then completely gave away.

For graduate student guard Joshua Langford, the heart-wrenching loss came with an extra factor that made it even harder to swallow.

“For starters, it’s my last college basketball game with Michigan State, so that’s tough," Langford said.

Langford has been with the Spartans for five years after gaining extra years of eligibility from injury. He has the opportunity to return with the Spartans next season at the age of 24, and perhaps that could still be a possibility, but he sounded that off late Thursday night with no further explanation.

Against the Bruins, Langford added 12 points and seven rebounds to the Spartans' final stats. He once again played in a player-coach role, seen mentoring teammates on their game-time decisions while resting on the sidelines.

After shooting 10-for-32 in MSU's last four outings, Langford looked out of sorts, his notorious long two-point jumper seemed suddenly unattainable. But against the Bruins, Langford would knock down 5-for-8 from the field, including a 1-for-1 appearance from behind the arc for his most productive offensive performance since late February against Indiana.

According to him, he left the college floor for the last time with nothing to regret.

"If you talk about individually, I have no reason to hang my head," Langford said. "I wasn’t perfect, but I tried to be the best that I could be for my teammates but even tonight I came up short with it. ... I just try to give 110% and at the end of the day there were some plays that I made for my team that I shouldn’t have made but I’m not hanging my head at all because I fought through.”

Head Coach Tom Izzo said it was tough to lose a game the way MSU lost it. Izzo said he felt his team played "extremely, extremely hard" with guys like Gabe Brown, Marcus Bingham Jr. and Langford giving everything they had to the game.

"I had some guys that played their tails off," Izzo said. “... I’d like to say for Josh Langford, unbelievable year. I mean the kid gave me every single thing he had, and I think it’s too bad that he had to go out that way because I thought we were a good enough team to win it.”

Langford said it's tough to lose a game when you "didn't control what you can control," which MSU was guilty of against the Bruins. Spartan players didn't follow the scouting report given to them and perimeter defense seemed almost non-existent.

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UCLA only lead the game for 4 minutes and 57 seconds overall, but the difference came in the Bruins shooting 6-for-10 from behind the arc in the second half largely at the hands of MSU's mistakes.

"Defensively, I think we really hurt ourselves," Langford said. "When you play the game you don’t want to lose because you didn’t control the things you can control. ... Tonight we didn’t necessarily do a good job of controlling the things that we can control on the defensive end so I think that’s the toughest part.”

In the grand scheme of things, the loss defined MSU's season. It followed familiar suit to the Spartans' narrative of frustrating mistakes, miscommunication and lack of consistency leading to a loss.

"That's the way the season went, you just can't make the same mistakes over and over and over again and that falls on me," Izzo said. "... It’s a shame because I thought we played some of our best offensive basketball of the year.”

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