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March 05, 2012

The ceremony

Noticed a comment on the last thread from regular poster dvorahz, who stayed for the post-game ceremony and was trying to set the record straight on the tone.

    I just finished my story on that. Here it is:

    EAST LANSING – Tom Izzo figured it would happen at some point. Michigan State would lose on a senior day and the Spartans would have to grit their teeth through a post-game ceremony.
    That’s just what happened Sunday at Breslin Center. The Spartans and their fans, still stunned by a 72-70 loss to Ohio State, then spent about 45 more minutes together as the seniors took the floor with their families, speeches were given and MSU raised its Big Ten championship banner.
    “There’s no question there were a lot of fake smiles, half smiles on our part,” said senior guard Austin Thornton, who was honored along with Draymond Green, Delvon Roe, Brandon Wood and Anthony Ianni – in the first senior day loss since Izzo switched from a pre-game ceremony to a post-game ceremony in 2009.
    “It happens at Duke, it can happen at Michigan State probably,” Izzo said of a senior day loss, which also happened to Big Ten co-champs Ohio State and Michigan this season. “But I still thought the 40 minutes they had with our fans was better than the 30 seconds they get the other way.”
    Green, more than anyone else, made sure of that.
    Clearly dejected as he came to the floor, he stayed on the microphone for several minutes after the other seniors spoke briefly. He made jokes, he thanked everyone from the fans to the team managers to the media, and he seemed to lighten the atmosphere.
    Green dogged Izzo for not wanting to offer him a scholarship at first, and he later said people have asked him of Izzo: “How can you be afraid of a midget?”
    “They just don’t know the power their midget comes with,” Green said to laughter as the video board at Breslin showed Izzo stifling a laugh.
    “It took some of the frustration away,” Green said of the speech. “When you get to talking, you just keep rattling on and going on, you get to putting everything in perspective. And we’ve accomplished some great things.
    “And that’s what that speech made me realize, that this day isn’t all about today. This day is about some things that have occurred over four and five years.”
    The 2012 Big Ten title is the third for Green and Thornton, and they’ll soon pursue their third Final Four (Green told the crowd he expects to be playing for another month).
    Meanwhile, Izzo called some former Spartans to the floor during the ceremony – Johnny Green, a star of MSU’s first Final Four team in 1957; Greg Kelser, who helped lead MSU to the 1979 national title; and Mateen Cleaves, who did the same in 2000.
    Izzo said to Cleaves: “Welcome our seniors into the Big Dog table, because they’ve earned their keep.”
    Thornton got to share the ceremony with his 5-year-old son, Carson, who was an MSU ball boy for the day. And Roe was on the bench for the first time this season after retiring in October because of chronic knee issues.
    Roe called the chance to return “one of the greatest moments of my life” but also found it difficult at times.
    “I wish I could have pulled a Brett Favre,” he said, “and say I’m un-retired and go out there and play.”
    Like many in the building, Roe also felt the impact of Green’s speech and appreciated it.
    “It was long,” Roe said with a smile. “It was what you expect from Day-Day. He’s a talker and he’s a guy who’s always gonna brighten up a room no matter what the situation is, and he did that.”

    I could go on and on about this game all night, but there's always tomorrow. One note: Travis Trice said he had a setback Saturday with the ankle and that it was "throbbing" as he tried to sleep on Saturday night. He played just six minutes and did not look as healthy as he did in Thursday's practice. Still, Trice said he expects to practice and play this week.

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Joe Rexrode
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