MINNEAPOLIS – Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo sat on a stool on the sideline, and he leaned back in Exasperation, as the season slipped away
The Spartans were fighting and scraping in the semifinal on Saturday night against Texas Tech, but nothing was falling.
Matt McQuaid missed a 3-pointer, limped up the court and Izzo grabbed his head in frustration.
Cassius Winston, MSU's tremendous point guard, missed a 3-pointer, and Izzo crossed his arms, squeezing tight.
] Nothing was falling.
Michigan State head Tom Izzo reacts to a play during the first half of the Spartan's Final Four game against Texas Tech at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Saturday, April 06, 2019. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Not when they needed the most, as Texas Tech squeezed out a 61-51 victory over the Spartans.
It was a heck of a run for the Spartans – a tremendous season, if they overcame all kinds of injuries.
But it ended with disappointment. The Spartans had an amazing opportunity to get to the national championship, after beating Duke and getting to the Final Four.
It was sitting right there on the counter, but they couldn't grab it.
Not at night when the Spartans missed too many shots and turned the ball over too much and couldn't stop the Red Raiders.
Some of the credit goes to Texas Tech's defense – a lot, really. Give them all the credit in the world
MSU just learned what Michigan found out a week earlier – Texas Tech is a fantastic team with a championship defense.
But some of this was on MSU, too.
MSU couldn't take advantage when Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech's future NBA player, was out with foul trouble.
And MSU couldn't take advantage when Texas Tech 6-foot-10 forward Tariq Owens limped off the court
MSU's defense disappeared in the second half, and Texas Tech made nine of its first 11 shots of the second half, including three straight 3-pointers, building a 45- 33 lead.
Still, the Spartans fought back.
They cut into the lead. Made it interesting
The season slipped away
The Spartans came out to attack the Texas Tech defense with a patient, deliberate approach, trying to get the ball inside and then wiping it around the perimeter for an open 3-pointer.
That looks fantastic when the ball is moving and shots are dropping.
And it works when the Spartans have the right lineup on the
Both Nick Ward and Aaron Henry had two first-half fouls
Minutes passed without either team scoring
Missed jumper. Defensive rebound. Block. Missed 3-pointer. Missed 3-pointer. Missed layup. Shot clock violation
And then, finally, the ball got stuck between the rim and the backboard, which seemed like a fitting metaphor for this first half.
It was great defense,
But it was also ineffective offense
At halftime, Texas Tech suffered 23-21 halftime, presenting and wild similarity.
MSU shot 30.4%; Texas Tech shot 30.8%
MSU had two players with two fouls; Texas Tech made two players with two fouls
MSU made four 3-pointers, Texas Tech made four 3-pointers.
MSU's largest lead was 5, Texas Tech's largest lead was 5.
Big stage, indeed
The lights went out in US Bank stadium and cell phone lights came on like a concert
A spotlight hit Michigan State's student dressed in all white
And the crowd was enormous.
The thing that is lost on TV is the enormity of it all.
The crowd of the arena – the court looks like putting a postage stamp in a big box.
"Have you ever seen a stadium like this?" I asked Gabe Brown earlier in the week.  "Never, in my life," he said. "It's just huge. I know there will be so many people yelling and screaming. It's going to be fun. Not intimidating. ”
“ Do it take a while to see the rim, with the wide space behind it? ”
“ Growing up, there is a school at my house. Saline High School. this. ”
" What? "
" Not like it. It's smaller. But through the back, you can see the people. Stuff like that. That took time to adjust. But I got used to it. "
Brown did have a chance to impact this first half, He got extra minutes after Aaron Henry went out with two fouls
But Brown missed his first three 3-pointers.
I point this out, not to make excuses, but to shed a little light into what this moment is like.It's bigger than life.It makes everything exaggerated.The joy of the win.And the pain of the loss.
And on this night, this loss will stick with Izzo and these players for the rest of their lives.
One day, they will realize this was an incredible achievement, just to get this far.
But it will also sting forever. But they couldn't make shots
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.