No. 19 Spartans beats Tuskegee 92-56 at Jenison

Tuskegee was invited to Michigan State to celebrate a

significant game in sports. The Golden Tigers, a Division II

program, were expected to fall behind early and get routed.

They had other plans.

Tuskegee gave the 19th-ranked Spartans more than they could

handle for much of the first half before getting blown out 92-56

Saturday night at Jenison Field House, where the ”Game of Change”

was held during the 1963 NCAA tournament.

”Division I teams play fast and physical,” Tuskegee’s Jacob

Pettway said. ”When we were on, we could stick with them.”

Eventually, the Golden Tigers (1-5) were overmatched after

playing teams such as the University of Montevallo and Saint

Leo.

”Size played a big part in it, we were outrebounded by about 30

rebounds in the second half,” Tuskegee coach Leon Douglas said.

”They’re not ranked 19th in the nation for nothing.”

Keith Appling matched a career high with 25 points as the

Spartans (9-2) played their first game in their former home for

hoops since 1989 – a decade after Magic Johnson called it his home

court during a championship season – to celebrate a historic event

staged in the same venue nearly a half-century ago.

Calvin Thomas scored 14 and Javier McKinney had 12 points for

the Golden Tigers.

Mississippi State, whose team had only white players at the

time, defied a state prohibition against playing integrated teams

to face Loyola of Chicago, which had four black starters, in East

Lansing during the 1963 NCAAs. Loyola won the game en route to

winning the NCAA title that year.

Those teams played for the first time since that NCAA tournament

matchup on Saturday night in Chicago, where Loyola won 59-51, and

players from the game that helped to change race relations on the

court were honored at halftime.

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said he had a

verbal agreement from Loyola to play Saturday night at Jenison, but

let the school out of the commitment when it had a chance to

reunite with Mississippi State on the court.

Hollis then lined up Tuskegee for the game and gave Tuskegee

Airmen and their families courtside seats. Some of the first black

aviators in the U.S. military, who trained in Alabama at Tuskegee

Institute, were given a standing ovation during the first

timeout.

”It was kind of hair-raising on your arms,” Michigan State

coach Tom Izzo said.

Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, a 91-year-old Tuskegee Airmen, was

thrilled to be among those honored by Michigan State officials,

coaches, players and fans.

”They treated us exuberantly well,” Jefferson said after the

game.

Douglas, a former NBA player, said both he and his players were

unaware of the significance of the 1963 game until the school was

invited to celebrate it and he educated himself and his

players.

”It was really a milestone,” Douglas said.

Michigan State uses Jenison for volleyball, wrestling,

gymnastics and indoor track. It was converted back into a

basketball venue, with the court and baskets brought over from the

nearby Breslin Center, for an alumni game Friday night, Saturday’s

game and a Michigan State women’s basketball game Sunday.

Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell, stars from the

2000 national championship team, and Steve Smith were among the

former Spartans who played in a game Friday night that was expected

to include Johnson as one of the coaches. Johnson didn’t make it

because he accepted an invitation to visit with President Barack

Obama. Johnson apologized to his ”MSU family and friends” for not

attending the alumni basketball game on his Twitter account. Hollis

said he would open Jenison up for basketball again if Johnson wants

to play in an alumni game.

Perhaps because the game was a side show of sorts, the Spartans

got off to a slow start against Tuskegee.

Michigan State led Tuskegee by two late in first half because

the Spartans had 12 turnovers and made just 10 of 23 shots.

The Spartans, who led 33-26 at halftime, pulled away with a 17-4

run early in the second half to take a 53-35 lead.

Michigan State’s Adreian Payne had 12 points and 10 rebounds,

Derrick Nix had 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Gary Harris added 10

points.

Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage