Tuskegee-Michigan St. Preview
Long before Michigan State coach Tom Izzo became the inspiration for the Breslin Center's boisterous student section dubbed "The Izzone," Jenison Field House was the site of many memorable moments for the Spartans.
They return to the "Old Barn" for the first time in more than two decades Saturday night, facing Division II Tuskegee to celebrate the 50th anniversary of an historic contest.
Izzo played at Jenison in 1973 and 1975 as a guard for Northern Michigan, and Magic Johnson guided Michigan State to its first national championship in the 1978-79 season while playing in front of the field house's regularly packed stands.
The Spartans beat Wichita State in the second round of the NIT on March 20, 1989, in the last game they played there before moving to the Breslin Center.
Saturday marks a one-time-only return to Jenison, site of the 1963 NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional semifinals. In that round, a Loyola of Chicago team boasting four African-American starters beat segregated Mississippi State 61-51 en route to the national title in what is referred to as the Game of Change.
In 2008, the NCAA listed it as one of its 25 defining moments. Nineteenth-ranked Michigan State will celebrate the game by hosting Tuskegee, an historically black college located in Alabama.
"So many people think this is such a great tribute to the Game of Change," Izzo said. "It's the game that really helped set the standard for the way college basketball is."
Michigan State (8-2) will get an opportunity to hone its game against an overmatched opponent after beating Loyola 73-61 last Saturday in a contest it trailed at halftime.
Freshman Gary Harris, who played without a brace for the first time since spraining his right shoulder Nov. 20, scored a season-high 20 points and went 7 of 11 from the field.
''He's a very unselfish kid,'' Izzo said. ''He took the brace off today, and I'm not sure I like that. I might be fist-fighting the doctors. But he has a chance to be a great player.''
Harris was 5 of 7 from 3-point range and scored 14 points in the second half after Izzo told him at the break to be more aggressive.
''If I'm open, I'm going to shoot the ball,'' Harris said. ''I need to come out like that at the beginning instead of having someone get into me.''
Reserve Adreian Payne scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Spartans, averaging a Big Ten-worst 15.0 turnovers.
''We didn't play great. We didn't play bad," Izzo said after his team committed 12 giveaways. "We had a couple of rough stretches with really foolish turnovers. But we took a little step in the right direction.''
Michigan State shouldn't have much trouble with a Tuskegee team that beat Montevallo 68-65 on Dec. 4 for its only victory.
Javier McKinney, who finished with a team-high 21 points, scored with 5.1 seconds remaining to break a tie before hitting a free throw following a technical foul.
The junior guard leads the Golden Tigers (1-4) with 20.2 points per game.