For University of North Carolina fans, it was a night that will never be forgotten. The same can apply for Michigan State University fans, but in a totally different manner.
MSU took on a UNC team that, with good reason, many viewed as the heavy favorite going into the tournament. They came into the tourney with a 27-3 overall record, 13-3 in the ACC, and they sent to the court a roster that included a bevy of future NBA players: Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson. Being the highest ranked team to reach the Final Four, clearly the expectations were championship or bust.
MSU provided a great story line as well. After posting a somewhat disappointing (for MSU standards) 25-5 record in the regular season, with losses to three unranked teams (Maryland, Northwestern and Penn State), MSU still walked away with their 12th Big Ten Championship under their belt. Throw in the fact that Tom Izzo was marching his team to his fifth Final Four, and you could view this as an upset in the making, especially with a line up that featured athleticism from top to bottom. Sophomore Kalin Lucas, a Detroit native, led the prowl with Raymar Morgan, Chris Allen, Goran Suton and Durrell Summers right behind him.
Oh, did I forget to mention that the game was being played in Detroit at Ford Field? Or that MSU was looking to avenge a 98-63 shellacking given to them by the hands of the Tar Heels in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge?
The table was set for this clash of titans.
72,922 fans (an NCAA Tournament record) packed inside Ford Field to watch what many anticipated to be one of the greatest championship games in some time.
And why wouldn’t they be excited? Two great teams, two great coaches in Tom Izzo and Roy Williams, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were in the house to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their classic championship match up, and Sparty Nation made the 90-mile drive from East Lansing to downtown Detroit to support their team.
Ford Field and downtown Detroit were both electric with expectations.
Then the actual game started.
You could easily say that this one was over before it even started. Despite a breakaway dunk for Goran Suton that sent Ford Field into a frenzy, it was all UNC from start to finish.
UNC started the game on a smothering 36-13 run and ended the first half with a 55-34 lead. Wayne Ellington tacked up 16 first half points, and Ty Lawson broke the NCAA Tournament record for steals with seven in the first half alone. The old coaching adage that “good defense leads to easy offense” held true as MSU had 14 turnovers in the first half, which threw gasoline on the fire.
Lawson finished the game with 21 points, 6 assists and 8 steals and UNC walked off with their 5th NCAA Championship. MSU took a long, silent bus ride back to East Lansing with their sights set on the 2010 season.