As seen in last night’s game, the victory often does come down to free throws. With Boise State coming into the game as an undefeated team, expectations were high on what the Spartans would bring to the court. Both teams were pumped up, coming from wins in their previous games and looking forward to playing each other again for the second time since 1982. The Spartan’s home court, which is always a great atmosphere due to the fans in the Izzone, was even more exciting by the presence Michigan State basketball legend, Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
After an opening break by Boise, MSU’s Freshman guard, Denzel Valentine hit a three for the first Spartan points on the board, giving them an early lead. They did not stay there long, as the team on top changed 7 times in the first half in this up-and-down game
The biggest problem for the Spartans wasn’t Boise’s offense or defense; however, it was their high number of fouls. MSU racked up a total of 5 team fouls within the first 10 minutes, giving Boise many easy points on the board. Sophomore Branden Dawson with a crowd-pleasing dunk in the first half, brought back hope to the Spartan nation. With 8 seconds left in the half, MSU hit a three, bringing the score to 38-32 as the Spartans lead the Broncos at half time.
State’s mojo was temporarily shattered in the second half with a flagrant foul on Adreian Payne and a technical called on an angry Coach Izzo. This led to 4 free throws by BSU’s Derrick Marks, a key player on the Broncos.
Michigan State had more trouble when the team’s leading rebounder, Derrick Nix, got his 4th foul with 8:58 left to play, putting him dangerously close to leaving the game. Fouling seemed to be a trend on the court, as Derrick Marks from the Broncos fouled MSU’s Valentine for his 5th foul and a walk to the bench with less than 3 minutes to play and Boise down by 5.
Tensions were high in the last minute of the game when MSU’s Keith Appling made a potentially costly foul, making the score 70-68 with 41 seconds left to play. However, rising out of the team huddle, Keith Appling nailed a basket and a foul shot, just about sealing the win for the Spartans with 15 seconds left. As the final buzzer sounded, the Spartans won this close game 74-70.
Following the game, Boise State’s coach, Leon Rice couldn’t help but wonder how the game could have potentially turned out if Marks would have been able to compete in the final seconds, yet he gives much credit to the Spartans saying “they have much fire power on that team.”
Previously in the season, Michigan State has looked to Gary Harris as their leading scorer. Unfortunately for the Spartans, Harris suffered an injury to the right shoulder very early that kept him out of the rest of the game. Though unaware of the severity of the situation at that time, Izzo says the “best case scenario is he’s sprained it and is out a couple weeks.” In regard to who will replace him, Izzo states, “I don’t know what his injury is, but he will not be playing this week I know that. We’ll find out who wants to play.” I think his question was answered last night when Keith Appling took the team on his back and became the leading scorer with a total of 22 points for the Spartans, as well as playing for the entire 40 minutes of the game. You would think an intense game such as this one would be grueling, yet Appling disagrees. “I actually wasn’t even tired. I didn’t even realize I played 40 minutes. I just know I didn’t come out,” he recalls, “I felt pretty good out there.”
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