"They took it to us for 30 minutes. They punched us in the mouth, picked us off the ground punched us in the mouth again, then they picked us up and punched us in the mouth again," explained Coach Tom Izzo.
Izzo credited the win to his captains for finding the will to lead his team in a game filled with physical play.
"Kalin did exactly what an All-American is suppose to do" Izzo said of Kalin Lucas' 19-point, five assist night which included a dazzling drive to the basket to give the Spartans a three-point lead with 34 seconds left to play.
Durrell Summers had game highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds and seemed to come up with a much needed basket every time the Spartans were in trouble. Summers' off-balanced shot from the elbow tied the game at 65 a piece, and his 3-pointer with 3:02 remaining gave the Spartans their first lead of the second half.
But in such a scrappy and physical game, Izzo wanted to give the most credit to his senior captain, Raymar Morgan.
"That was just a heroic performance by Raymar," said Izzo.
Morgan, who missed both exhibition games and was limited in the season opener due to a sprained left ankle, sprained his right ankle in the first half, but was able to return and lift his team with 16 points and 5 rebounds. "We're unsure how bad that right ankle is right now but I'm so proud of Raymar, he gutted it out and showed true leadership and toughness by playing hurt," added Izzo.
Michigan State played out of sync early on and struggled with the Zags' interior play. After falling behind by double digits the Spartans cut the lead to 23-15 thanks to five straight points from Lucas with 6:33 left in the first half. A three point play from Chris Allen trimmed the deficit more, allowing Michigan State to only trail 35-30 at the half.
Gonzaga center Robert Sacre and freshman Elias Harris both had good games and tallied 17 points a piece for the Bulldogs, but the Spartans were able to get the duo in foul trouble through out the second half and that opened the door for Michigan State.
A Morgan 12-footer cut the lead to 43-40 with 13:54 to play, and the two teams battled back and forth. Morgan's reverse lay-in gave the Spartans' their biggest lead at 71-67 with 2:07 to play. Gonzaga still had a chance to tie late but Steven Gray missed two 3-pointers and Summers sealed the win with a pair of free throws with five seconds left.
Izzo also made sure to credit the crowd for the win stating "they won the game for us", even when the Spartans were down the Breslin Center never quieted, making the atmosphere feel like it was March.
Recruits On Hand
There were a handful of recuits that took in the game- notably Tommie McCune, Amir Williams, Charles Tucker, and Chris Harrison-Docks. Trey Zeigler, Brandan Kearney, and Percy Gibson had all scheduled to attend the game but had to cancel late notice because of practice.