Fans turn out to welcome Spartans back home
East Lansing — After waiting five years, Michigan State fans didn't mind waiting a bit longer to celebrate with the Spartans.
Hundreds of Spartans fans gathered in the Breslin Center on Sunday night to welcome the team back from their thrilling overtime win over Louisville earlier Sunday in Syracuse, New York, to get back to the Final Four.
MSU is back in the national semifinals for the first time since 2010, much to the delight of the Spartans faithful, who watched a replay of the game on the scoreboard before the team arrived back at Breslin just before 10 p.m.
The crowd erupted in applause and cheered as the Spartans came through the tunnel, as seniors Travis Trice and Branden Dawson had the nets from the rims draped around their necks. Coach Tom Izzo and wife Lupe raised their hands in jubilation and the fans showed their approval with more applause.
"This is why you do it — getting the fans involved," Izzo said after the celebration.
The three seniors, Travis Trice, Branden Dawson and Keenan Wetzel, each addressed the Breslin crowd with brief speeches, happy that they could resume the streak of senior classes under Izzo that have been to a Final Four.
"This is truly amazing. Everybody else is probably at home or at the bars but you guys came to support," Trice said. "We just want to thank you guys for the support, through the ups and downs. We know it's been a roller-coaster season — but you guys are true fans; you're here now and you were here with us through the season.
"All I have to say is that we're not done yet."
As the seventh seed, the Spartans weren't expected to win the East Regional, but played some of their best basketball of the season to win the regional title. In Izzo's seventh trip to the Final Four, this might be one of the most unexpected groups to get there. Although he wasn't into making stark comparisons, Izzo saw how unique and underestimated this team is.
"This is a special team," Izzo said. "We're not as talented as some of those teams but that makes it even more special."
Last year's team also go to the Elite Eight but wasn't able to reach the Final Four, becoming the first group under Izzo not to get to the national semifinals during their playing career.
Dawson remembered some of the past Spartans, especially the seniors from last season.
"This is for our seniors, Travis and Keenan. It was hard watching Keith (Appling) and (Adreian Payne) go out the way they did but we did it for them," Dawson said. "We did it for Draymond Green and everyone else."
The fans, who had waited for almost two hours, got what they came for as well.
"We are so excited. This game was so hype today," said Kristen Cobus, an MSU freshman from Holt. "It was stressful, to say the least. I had to take a walk down my hallway in the dorm."
The final minutes of regulation and the overtime period were stressful, especially given some of the Spartans' other finishes this season at the ends of games. But this time, it worked out, with a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis.
"It was exciting; I'm proud that they actually pulled it out," said Courtney Jackson, a freshman from Lansing. "We're going to Indianapolis."
Jackson, a season-ticket holder, is planning on getting student tickets for the Final Four and making the trip. Having seen most of the games this season, she's excited to see if they can continue the unlikely run.
"I'm good to go; I'm going to get tickets," she said.