After wrapping up his final answer in the postgame press conference, senior forward Gabe Brown leaned close to the microphone and introduced who’s coming after him with an ear-to-ear smile.
“Marcus Bingham, ladies and gentleman,” Brown said as he skipped away from the podium. “Big 30, all-time block leader, here you go.”
Following Brown’s rousing introduction, Bingham got up from the press row and sauntered up to the podium for his wave of questions. Bingham moved as slow as his 6’11 frame would allow him, allowing Brown’s words to marinate in the air.
It was the walk of a player dealing with mixed emotions. It was the last time that Bingham will ever play at the Breslin Center and he was the star of the show for Michigan State tonight, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds in MSU’s 77-67 victory over Maryland.
The night to remember started from the Spartans' opening possession. After winning the tip, Bingham took his spot at the right elbow for MSU’s first possession. After the ball got swung to fellow redshirt senior Joey Hauser on the right-wing, Bingham rolled to the rim off a back-screen from junior guard Tyson Walker and rose up to catch an alley-oop from Hauser and slammed it home to give MSU a 2-0 lead.
His work early wasn’t done. On MSU’s third possession, Bingham flared to the three-point line as Brown drove to the rim. Brown kicked it to Bingham, who was wide open, and he drained a three to extend MSU’s lead to 8-0. Twenty seconds later, Bingham had the ball in his hands again on the fastbreak and stepped into a three and hit nothing but net.
Bingham’s early eight-point barrage was a part of MSU’s 18-1 run to start the game that put Maryland in a hole that was too deep to climb out of. The pair of threes was the beginning of a career-high shooting night for Bingham, who poured in three threes in the first half to help MSU jump out to a 20-point halftime lead.
If you need any more proof that it was Bingham’s night, just look at his third and final three. As MSU was settling into its half-court set, Walker swung the ball back to Bingham at the top of the key and asked for it back. Bingham ignored him and let a shot fly off the backboard. The ball hit hard off the backboard and rattled home to give MSU a 21-point lead.
“It felt good,” Bingham said. “The first one went in and I knew the second was going up. Then when I caught the third one, it was kind of like, 'I'm shooting this one' and that's what it was and it went in.”
His effort extended past the early offense. Bingham returned to his old ways of deterring shots at the rim and using his 7’4 wingspan to scoop up any rebounds in his vicinity. By the time the final horn sounded, Bingham filled up the stat-sheet and finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, a block, and a team-high three triples.
“Damn, that's a phenomenal stat line boy,” Brown said to Bingham after going over the stats himself. “He did a phenomenal job of just sticking with it. He wanted to be the guy that wanted to give us more and more energy and he's one of those guys that we need each and every night to bring energy because he's a senior as well.”
Despite the performance, there were lingering questions about whether he would even get to this point. Bingham had dealt with inconsistencies all year in terms of production and effort on the court but those issues were not apparent Saturday.
“Marcus was kind of begging people, willing people,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “I never saw that side of him. And so some players grow in a lot of different ways. Marcus Bingham grew and winning has become more important than individual play. And, man, that's a hell of a thing to take with him for the next 60 years, I think. I'm proud of him.”
The last four years have been a rollercoaster for the senior center from Grand Rapids. He came in as a highly-touted stretch four that had MSU fans drooling over his guard-like talents on his 6’11 frame. The natural talent did not come to fruition immediately though as his weight, or lack thereof, kept him from competing with the big men of the Big Ten.
As Bingham found more playing time, the frustration grew for Izzo and the coaching staff. Bingham continued to hoist threes that sent Izzo into fits and was unable to keep weight on his lengthy frame. The struggles largely kept Bingham off the court in his first two years and he became the black sheep on the roster.
Izzo joked during the Senior Day ceremony that he would’ve transferred three times if he was Bingham because of the trials and tribulations he was put through during his long four years as a Spartan. At the podium, Bingham said he seriously considered transferring but said he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.
“I appreciate this place, man,” Bingham said with his eyes closed, smiling. “I appreciate my coaches, everybody that came through here that helped me, ever. This is the place to be man and I'm happy I came here.”
The final entry in Bingham’s winding road as a Spartan was one to remember. He walked away with a double-double, a career-high in threes (three), two steals, a block, and a wave goodbye to the Izzone and a kiss for the Spartan logo at midcourt.
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The memories of Bingham’s shortcomings early in his career will remain, but so will his unforgettable final game at Breslin Center. Bingham will forever be a part of Michigan State history as the program’s all-time block leader and ball of energy lifting teammates up.
There is still plenty left for him to accomplish as MSU enters the postseason. His performance today will need to be replicated in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament for MSU to reach its lofty goals. But for now, MSU and Bingham are more than content with their impactful performance on senior day.
“I don't think he's done,” Izzo said. “I think this could give him a shot in the arm because he rebounded. I mean, yeah, he had a couple of threes so for Marcus, that's utopia. For the coaches, 11 rebounds and what he did there is utopia. He played pretty good defense. I thought that was great.”
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