The game went into overtime after sophomore forward and center Mangok Mathiang scored one of two free throw shots with 4.9 seconds remaining in the game. This move tied the teams with 65 points and an additional five minutes were put on the clock.
Louisvilleâ€™s coach Rick Pitino said, â€œI was positive we were going to win it when the first free throw went in, because it shouldn’t have gone in. We’re going to win this thing. We set up the trap. Then we missed it and went into overtime, still excited.â€
MSUâ€™s junior guard Bryn Forbes scored a 3-pointer within the first minute of overtime. In the last minute of the game, MSUâ€™s senior forward Branden Dawson scored a field goal, giving his team a 74-70 lead. Blackshear attempted to make a shot from the three-point line but missed. Harrell attempted to put back the miss but was unsuccessful.
Michigan Stateâ€™s senior guard Travis Trice scored 28 points during the game. After the final buzzer rang, the top scorer fell and burst into tears, shocked and awed that his team had won. His teammates embraced him and celebrated their triumphant victory.
â€œAny time you have a bad night, you have to say, credit to the defense. So many times people try to pinpoint a guy’s misses. It’s just good defense that they were playing,â€ said Pitino.
After the game, forward freshman Shaqquan Aaron said, â€œIt was a great season regardless. After Chris (Jones) left, I thought we were done but, I mean, we made it to the Elite 8 and weâ€™ll always have that.â€
Back in the locker room after the game, Louisvilleâ€™s sophomore guard and forward Terry Rozier talked about his experience playing college basketball. Rozier said, â€œItâ€™s a lot of fun playing for the coaches that we got and getting the opportunity to make it to the Final Four. Itâ€™s just amazing. Not done yet, still got next year.â€ He later continued, â€œYou got to take advantage of this moment â€˜cause you wonâ€™t get it back. Unfortunately our older guys, theyâ€™re leaving. Pretty sure theyâ€™re gonna miss college â€˜cause college is probably the best years of their life. Youâ€™ll never get cheered like you get cheered at the college level and you go on to (whatever) next ball team you play for so, you know, just take advantage.â€
The Louisville Cardinals return home with heavy hearts as the season came to an end for them. For two of the teamâ€™s most advanced players, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell, the game against MSU marks the end of their journey with the Cards.
Harrell is predicted to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Looking back at his final game of the season, he noted, â€œIt just hurts a lot. We all had one goal coming into this tournament, and when you lose an overtime game the way we lost it, when we’re one possession away from winning, it’s pretty tough. It just hurts. Looking around the locker room, just seeing the guys down. We’ve been up so many times in the game. Our season is over. Just got to go on.â€
Senior guard and forward Blackshear was Louisvilleâ€™s top scorer for the game with a total of 28 points. During the second half, he went to the bench with a bloody nose after scoring a field goal. He later returned to the court and gave his all, displaying perseverance and determination. Blackshear said, â€œI get to look back and say I had a great career. I played with a lot of great players in my four years here. I won a National Championship, went to a Final Four. There’s nothing else I can say.â€
Pitino said, â€œAny time you’re in the Elite Eight, just that word ‘elite’ defines the eight teams. Any time you lose in overtime, it’s a heartbreaker. It’s very difficult for all the players. But real proud of our guys.â€
The Michigan State Spartans will go on to play against Duke in the Final Four on Saturday, April 4 in Indianapolis, IN.
Photos by Chris Humphreys | The Voice-Tribune