SPECIAL GRADUATION SECTION
April 15, 3
The Wolverines defend homecourt, defeat Michigan State for the first time in five years
By Seth Klempner
Jan. 27, 2003
Senior Gavin Groninger ran out to
center court to meet freshman
Daniel Horton and hoist him above
his shoulders seconds after the
Wolverines clinched their first victo-
ry against Michigan State in five
years. The image of the two embrac-
ing at center court for a moment
before they were rushed by fans and
players alike, arms stretched towards
the heavens, will surely be implant-
ed in the mind's eye of the Michigan
basketball program for years to
The sold-out crowd in Crisler
Arena was on its feet in anticipation
of redemption in the waning seconds
of the Wolverines' 60-58 win over
Michigan State - a win that ended
five years of dominance on the part
of the Spartans, who had rattled off
eight straight wins and several
With six and a half minutes left,
Michigan State sophomore Chris
Hill slashed to the hole for an
uncontested lay-up. The bucket
capped a 12-2 run by the Spartans
and gave them their biggest lead of
the game at 52-47. Hill, who did not
start the game, finished as Michigan
State's leading scorer with 20 points
and six assists.
But that would be the top of the
hill for the Spartans, who relin-
quished the lead to the Wolverines at
4:36 and never got it back.
Michigan countered with a run of
its own, scoring 11 unanswered
points and holding Michigan State
scoreless for a six-minute span.
"We had the five-point lead, I
don't think we did the best job of
taking the best shots that we could
get," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo
said. We "panicked and threw up a
couple of long shots (at the end of
the) shot clock a couple of times."
Referring to a play where fresh-
man Daniel Horton out-hustled
Michigan State freshman Paul Davis
for a loose ball late in the game,
Izzo said it was "embarrassing and
disappointing to me and our pro-
gram and those little things are what
this team hasn't learned yet."
In the Big Ten season, staunch
defense has been typical for the
Wolverines in the Big Ten, who have
used late-game defensive stands to
extend or reclaim leads, allowing
them to win the game on the free-
Two quick layups by freshmen
Lester Abram and Horton got Michi-
gan back in it, and then a Horton
free throw knotted the game at 52 a
piece with 4:36 left.
A minute later, senior captain
LaVell Blanchard, who did not make
a basket in the game, let a three go
from the corner that sucked the air
out of Crisler. Blanchard, the team's
leading scorer, came up short, con-
tinuing a scoring drought that left
him 0-for-5 in the game.
Horton was the answer to the scor-
ing dearth when he made a beeline
around high screen, caught Bernard
Robinson's pass, and let go a 3-
pointer over Hill that was destined to
find the, bottom of the net. The
bucket gave Michigan a four-point
lead with 1:24 remaining and caused
Crisler to explode in jubilation.
"That was a tough shot that he hit
going away from the basket, but
maybe that is the mark of a great
player," Izzo said. "Sometimes it is
with scoring, and sometimes with
passing and there are not a lot of
guys who can do both.
"He has Mateen (Cleaves) quali-
ties, he has a calming effect on his
team. I am very impressed with
Horton's classmates should have
been equally impressive to Izzo. The
five played with the poise and matu-
rity of veterans, providing key buck-
ets in clutch situations. In all, the
rookie class scored more than two-
thirds of Michigan's points.
"This is pretty big and it's just as
physical," Horton, a Texas native,
said of comparisons to the Texas-
Oklahoma football rivalry. "The
only difference is the fans aren't
fighting each other in the stands. I
see now that it is a very special
rivalry in the state."
With one minute remaining, fresh-
man Chris Hunter stepped up and
blocked an Erazem Lorbek dunk that
was inches away from being in the
cylinder. The block got Michigan the
ball back, allowing it to stretch the
lead beyond Michigan State's reach.
Hill hit two 3-pointers in the final
30 seconds, but they would not be
enough for the floundering Spartans,
who are now 2-4 in the Big Ten.
Yesterday's win went a long way
in restoring the rivalry, according to
Izzo, who now believes that the
teams are "perfectly even." But it
also did a big job in redeeming the
previous three years of losing to all
the Michigan seniors.
Michigan freshman Graham Brown battles for a rebound in Michigan's 60-58 win.
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