If there’s one thing to be said about the first-ever Carrier Classic between the Michigan State Spartans and No. 1-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, it’s that it wasn’t all bad for Michigan State. In fact, despite the final score and loss, things looked pretty promising for the underdog Spartans at times.
With a forecast of possible rain and winds in the San Diego Bay in the days leading up to the event, some had wondered if the monumental undertaking would even take place at all. Playing basketball outside, let alone on the deck of a US Navy aircraft carrier, seemed challenging enough. Tack on the fact that event planners had to arrange for the seating of over 8,000 servicemen and fans, one of them being the President of the United States, and it certainly seems like enough to lose some sleep over.
Earlier in the week, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo told reporters that he knew going up against the top-ranked preseason team, with his own team being unranked, was going to be a tough task.
“It’s going to be a game filled with memories,” Izzo said to some degree. “I just hope they are good memories.”
As President Barack Obama, a well-known college basketball devotee, and wife Michelle watched from the sidelines seated with service members and fans, they undoubtedly saw more than just a few good memories throughout the night.
The Spartans entered the first half keeping pace with the Tar Heels off the bat and suddenly, in what seemed to be from out of nowhere, began to not only shut down the North Carolina offense, but find an offensive rhythm of their own that many may have thought this young team would perhaps be incapable of at this stage.
Tom Izzo’s squad ended up outrebounding the Tar Heels 49-34, which itself is a great feat alone, but fell short drastically by making only 2 of 20 3-pointers.
Michigan State star player, Draymond Green, had a stellar performance with a career-high 18 rebounds and 13 points against one of the most potent teams in the nation.
“It’s a loss but at the end of the day it’s a win because of what we did,” Green said. “One of the things we talked about was getting back to our roots. To outrebound one of the biggest, best front courts in the nation by 15, that’s phenomenal. If we attack the boards like that every single game, we’re going to win a lot of games”.
And as for playing in front of President Obama on a stage that many would never have even imagined, Green added that the experience “was phenomenal”.
“It’s not every day anyone gets to do that, so that was great. We appreciate the opportunity to show our support and our thanks to the troops for what they do for us every single day.”
With beautiful clear skies and a breathtaking sunset to boot, which included a display of the daily “lowing of the colors” ceremony, it was not only a Veterans Day to remember, but a big one in NCAA history that won’t soon be forgotten.
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