After a long Indy weekend of hoops tourney shuffling, the stage was set to crown the 2014 Big Ten Men's Basketball Champion, with the #8 Michigan Wolverines squaring off against inner-state rival, the #22 Michigan State Spartans on March 16th.
Be it St. Patty's weekend or an influx of MSU's faithful Sparty Nation, but a sea of green and speckled gold swarmed downtown around the Bankers Life hive.
Fans were abuzz on the streets around the Fieldhouse, and greeted within by food, merchandise, festivities, and battling Michigan and Michigan State bands and cheerleaders.
Title Game: #1 Michigan vs #3 Michigan State
Michigan looked ready, opening the game up to a 9-4 lead. But from there it was all Michigan State.
The Spartans' Gary Harris tied it at 9-9 amidst a 12-0 run, and a mostly-green stadium came alive. Michigan State would never look back, as their spread floor, slashing cuts, and 20 first-half offensive rebounds gave MSU a 38-29 lead at the break.
Michigan's stand-out guard Nik Stauskas tried to keep it close, but after 13 first-half points, he only added four in the second. MSU's defense also held Glenn Robinson III to 6 points on 2-8 shooting.
The Wolverines felt the absence of big man Mitch McGary, leaving their front line undersized and exposed. The Spartans dominated inside with a 38-20 point advantage and ran the court with 16 fast break points.
Michigan State pulls away, defeating Michigan 69-55.
"I told the guys, I think our defense is going to make the difference tonight" added MSU head coach Tom Izzo post-game. "We were so much better defensively in this whole tournament".
The Spartans were led by center Adreian Payne with 18 points and 9 rebounds, 8 of which contributed to 24 total team defensive boards.
Perhaps more importantly was the consistency of Michigan State's Branden Dawson. A Hoosier native from Gary, his 7-8 shooting and 15 game points capped a solid run and sealed his "Most Important Player of the Big Ten Tournament" award.
Michigan State's trophy case is filling up quickly. Coach Izzo added, "This year our football team came to Indianapolis to win a Big Ten championship, followed by our basketball now winning a Big Ten championship. This has been a special year."
Indy has indeed been good to MSU and the green Sparty Nation.
Big Ten Championship Wrap-up (Slideshow)
Eleven games over four days pare down 12 teams to crown the king of the 2014 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament.
Click to View 20 slides