On Tuesday evening, I attended my first MSU basketball game of the season, a somewhat snooze-worthy blowout win of North Florida in front of a vaguely disinterested, Izzone-less crowd. The biggest excitement of the evening, quite frankly, took place during the timeouts. In the first half, the seniors for the Spartan football team came out with their championship trophies and saluted the crowd and were received with the most rousing applause of the night. Late in the second half, Tom Izzo called timeout and addressed the crowd, saluting Ed Hightower, who was officiating his last game at Breslin Center before his retirement. Hightower has taken quite a bit of abuse from MSU fans over the years, but he received a warm ovation and he seemed truly touched by the gesture.
As for the game itself, the play of Gavin Schilling and Russell Byrd was encouraging, but given the competition is probably not worth getting overly excited about. Certainly, it'd be great to see Schilling continue to improve this season since this basketball team's biggest weakness is in the front court. Derrick Nix's departure has left a hole that the Spartans have had a difficult time filling. Russell Byrd played the best game I've ever seen from him. He made some big shots and looked confident. He was even able to drive to the basket and lay it up and in. I've never seen that from him. Yes, I know it's "only" North Florida, but maybe this is a good sign. Maybe, just maybe, Byrd can become a guy to come off the bench and provide a spark. One can't help but root for this kid.
The last highlight of the evening occurred after the game, when Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson joined in the singing of "MSU Shadows" and offered some interpretive dance moves to go with it. It was an amusing moment.
Coming up is the game against Texas, and this game will probably be a big challenge for MSU. I watched most of the second half of the Longhorns' win over North Carolina at the Dean Dome, and Texas looks like a very good team. Considering how depleted the Spartans currently find themselves, it'll be tough for MSU to come away with a win, but I'm sure they'll play hard and you just never know--stranger things have happened. Never count Tom Izzo out of any game.