EAST LANSING, M.I.- Sophomore Jason Richardson had a pair of slam dunks — the first and final baskets of the game — to lead the defending national champions Spartan team over the Cornell men’s basketball team.
Only five seconds into the game after sophomore Aloysius Anagonye won the opening tip over senior tri-captain Greg Barratt, Richardson perfectly timed a pass from senior Charlie Bell and proceeded to throw the ball into the net from a foot above the rim. The 14,759 fans in the Michigan State Breslin Center began to cheer wildly, threatening the visiting Red.
The opening game of the Spartan Coca-Classic last Friday ended similarly with another Richardson dunk to end MSU’s drubbing of Cornell, 89-56.
When junior point guard Wallace Prather hit his first three-point basket from the top of the arch, the Cornell men’s basketball team finally took a one point lead over the defending NCAA champions Spartan, 3-2.
That was the Red’s only lead of the game.
Bell answered Prather’s basket with a 3-pointer of his own, and MSU never looked back. Bell scored eight points in the first four minutes.
Freshman guard Ka’Ron Barnes added a spark to the Red’s offense all evening. After his first entrance in the game, he scored five straight points to put the Red within three, 16-13. He made four of his seven shots and converted all six of his free throws.
The Spartans used their size, strength, speed and sheer athleticism to beat the Red on the boards, in transition and force an outside game. The Red was unable to drive past the large Spartan bodies and was forced to settle for outside shots. With 6 minutes left in the half, Cornell had 17 field goal attempts — 12 were from beyond the arc.
Following Barnes’ 5-0 run, MSU countered with a 14-0 run of its own. At the end of 20 minutes the Spartans more than double Cornell’s score 38-18.
MSU continued its dominance well into the second half. Cornell had trouble keeping up with the quickness coming from the Spartan bench. The team once again needed the presence of Barnes to reinvigorate the offense. He shot the first points of the half on the board for the Red at 15:56.
“There was a 15 minute stretch when [the MSU bench] just wore us down,” Prather said. “Our legs were getting a little tired.”
Barratt tried to establish himself in the post, but once and again found himself up against the one of the imposing Spartan cagers.
The Red played a more inspired game as head coach Steve Donahue sent all the men on his 13 man roster into the game. Still, there was no competition as the national champs kept increasing the point disparities.
Unlike in the opening game of the season against Lafayette, Donahue did not utilize his entire bench during the first half.
“I think that we were a little intimidated by the atmosphere [in Breslin],” head coach Steve Donahue said. “I wasn’t so comfortable throwing certain guys on this team in this kind of environment.”
Nevertheless every one of the 13 men on the bench had a chance to play against the second-ranked Spartans.
Barnes tied Spartan senior Andre Hutson with a game high 15 points in his 25 minutes of play.
Senior tri-captain Ray Mercedes also moved into third place on Cornell’s all-time career 3-point field goal totals.
Cornell also hit 13 of its 15 free throws, including all 10 in the second half.
“[Cornell] did a great job of penetrating around us. Steve did a great job” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo commented. “Maybe our talent and athleticism took over and maybe that’s why things started to swing our way a little.”
The Red came away from the game with more than another notch in the loss column.
“I thought it was a great experience for our team, one that we will never forget. Although we did not play as well as we liked…” Donahue opined.
Moreover, the MSU game will only strengthen the team for the fast approaching Ivy League season.
“I think that if we play like the way we played for the first 4 minutes, when it was an 8-point game, we can play with anyone in the league,” junior point guard Wallace Prather said.
Archived article by Amanda Angel