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'It's embarrassing': Izzo laments rebounding deficit after Maryland stuns Michigan State

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — The atmosphere was at a fever pitch at Breslin Center on Saturday night, even if things didn’t end the way Michigan State hoped it would.

With the 2000 national championship team on hand to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Spartans were on the verge of pulling off a huge comeback win over No. 9 Maryland only to get outscored 14-0 in the final three minutes of a 67-60 loss to the Terrapins.

Spartans' Gabe Brown battles under the basket in the first half.

It was difficult for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo to stomach, especially as the Spartans were outrebounded in the first half by nine.

“I would like to thank our fans, they were phenomenal,” Izzo said. “And I'd like to say sorry to our championship team because for us to rebound like that was an insult to me and to them.

“It's a shame too that we were down (22-13) on the boards in front of my team that stood for rebounding. It's embarrassing. It's even more embarrassing when you lose (the rebounding battle) by one, which means in the second half you out rebounded them by a ton.”

Michigan State had 21 rebounds in the second half to 13 for Maryland. It’s a stat the Spartans rarely lose and certainly didn’t often in 2000. That group was well-represented on Saturday, with only Charlie Bell absent from the festivities.

Each player was recognized at halftime, including longtime NBA players Morris Peterson and Jason Richardson along with team captain Mateen Cleaves.

“We look back and it’s been 20 years and I can’t believe we all still look the same,” Cleaves joked as he addressed the crowd. “I want you guys to know something about these guys right here. What made us special is we had a locker room full of guys that cared about each other. We had a locker room full of guys that believed in each other. Nobody was bigger than the team, not one person. That’s what made us special and that’s something you guys should appreciate.

“We had one goal and that was to win a national championship and every guy that’s standing behind me and the guys before me — we want to thank the guys that came before us, we want to thank the guys that kept the tradition going after us. But these guys, I want to tell you every day we worked for each other, we grinded together. It was a family. We had one goal and that was to win a national championship. Blood, sweat and tears every day we got in the gym. It was all about winning a national championship, but not just winning it but winning it together. Family, that’s what separated us from the rest of the teams around the country. One team, one dream, one goal. Family. We did it together.”

Meet the new boss

The 2000 national title team wasn’t the only one being celebrated on Saturday.

During the game’s first media timeout, new football coach Mel Tucker took the court wearing a throwback Michigan State basketball uniform.

“Hello, Spartans,” Tucker said to the Breslin Center crowd. “It’s good to be back home. I’m happy to be back home where it all began for me. Thank you so much. Thank you for the support that you have given me and my family, we really appreciate it.

“I can promise you one thing, our football team will be relentless. We have work to do, we’ve got something to prove. We’re going to get it done, I promise you that. Go green.”

Tucker, who began his career at Michigan State as a graduate assistant in 1997, was hired on Wednesday to replace Mark Dantonio, who stepped down after 13 years.

Making good impressions

It was a big recruiting day for Michigan State, led by the presence of Ypsilanti’s Emoni Bates, the top-ranked sophomore in the country.

Also on hand was Caleb Furst, a four-star 2021 prospect from Fort Wayne. It was the second time this season he’s been at a game at Breslin Center.

Also on hand were Pierre Brooks II of Detroit Douglass, Kobe Bufkin of Grand Rapids Christian and Jaden Akins of Farmington. All three are rated as four-star guards.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau