Note: this is a guest post by Matt Brackmann
After graduation from Michigan State University in 1997, I moved down to Austin, Texas for all the great opportunities this city provides. A healthy economy, a young active lifestyle, an excellent standard of living and, of course, a job for me to work.
In 1998, Ricky Williams won the Heisman Trophy and the Longhorn football program was consistently winning. Being a Spartan football fan during that time period was trying, to say the least. I quickly adopted UT as my third favorite program. Burnt Orange was becoming an acceptable color choice. The Longhorns may have had football, but MSU still owned basketball.
Fast-forward to 2013 and I now have a son who attends and cheers loudly for UT, but has adopted an appreciation for his dad’s school. Another son who loves to be the antagonist and so will cheer against the Spartans. A wife who loves the Spartans first and foremost, but has an undergraduate and graduate degree from UT. MSU has developed a solid football program to take the place of UT’s diminishing national prominence. I hang my Spartan flag on my house with more and more pride every year, but we are becoming a house divided.
This provided a great back-drop for the December 21st basketball matchup between UT and MSU. As always, UT has a little trouble selling tickets to their basketball games, so we snatched up tickets for only $10. We piled into the car, some of us wearing the Horns, while I bled green. I was confident in the Spartans, but remained realistic. Texas had just beat #14 North Carolina only 3 days prior. Also, the last time Sparty played here was on Dec. 22, 2009 and we walked away with a 68-79 loss. UT fan Carl Shaulis was optimistic about his team. When asked about the matchup pre-game he said, “Hook ‘em Horns! I think it’s going to be a tight game; Horns are going to win by two.”
The game was a classic. The Longhorns won the opening tip-off and quickly took an 8-2 lead with Cam Ridley making things difficult for the Spartans under the basket. The Spartan fans quickly realized they needed to make their presence known. The MSU crowd was heard often, even though Burnt Orange outnumbered Spartan green about 8-1. Adreian Payne heard that call and scored Michigan State’s first nine points to bring the game back to 11-9.
Eventually, Michigan State acquired it’s first lead of the game behind a Keith Appling layup. Things started to seem right, but then Texas went on a 9-0 run with five minutes left in the first half. The Longhorn fans started cheering like believers, confidence extended from their UNC win just a few days ago. But Michigan State played tough. Travis Trice scored 5 points in the closing minutes and helped diminish the UT lead to 36-38 at halftime.
In the second half, neither team’s adjustments seem to make much of difference. The game continued to be a close matchup for several minutes. Jon Harmon noted a momentum shift and sent me this message, “Get the feeling that State is on the verge of taking over. 13:45 mark in the 2nd half.” At that point, the score was tied 50-50 and MSU needed to capitalize soon.
The Spartan boom hit just a couple minutes later. A 12-2 run by Sparty shows the Longhorn crowd that basketball experience can beat young talent. The MSU crowd was really into the game at this point. I started receiving messages from local friends asking how many Spartans were in the crowd. The chants of “Go Green, Go White” were beating out “Texas Fight” on TV even.
With a solid lead, Izzo starts controlling the tempo and burning clock. UT feels it and takes a timeout with 5min left, trailing 62-72. UT comes back out with a full-court press and immediately nets a turnover and 2 points.
MSU quickly recovers and starts managing the press. At the 3:28 mark, Valentine has a breakaway and gives an assist to a Dawson dunk off the backboard. MSU lets this Longhorn crowd know they are in charge and as Harmon stated, “Dunk you very much!” With under a minute to go and down by double digits, the Longhorn crowd begins to herd out, as if heading to the stockyard. MSU closes the deal with a 92-78 win, the largest margin of victory ever between these two teams.
Tom Izzo gave the Longhorns their due credit saying, “That was a big win for us, I love Texas’ team and I think Rick (Barnes) has done an excellent job here.” He was impressed by UT’s speed and quickness and believes Texas will have an excellent team in the near future. Izzo also acknowledged the Spartan fan base here in Austin, “Thank you to our fans down here, it was unbelievable support; greatly appreciated and needed.”
Although I may live in Longhorn country and do live in a house divided, I learned today that I am not alone. MSU fans came to Frank Erwin Center, represented the Green and White and helped the Spartans walk away with their first ever victory in Austin.