EAST LANSING, Mich. — It was senior night for the Michigan State men’s basketball team, and in their final game game at the Breslin Center, seniors Ben Carter, Gavin Schilling and Lourawls Nairn Jr. all wound up in head coach Tom Izzo’s starting lineup against the University of Illinois men’s basketball team.
All three seniors kissed the Spartan logo on the court as part of a Spartan tradition, but Carter certainly took his time when exiting the court for the final time.
“He sure deserved his time.” Izzo said in the postgame press conference. “He had six years. You know, he’s going on Medicare next week.”
Carter spent three minutes on the court. Although he didn’t score, Carter did bring in a pair of rebounds and dish out an assist.
Schilling, a fifth-year senior, ended the night with a pair of baskets along with six rebounds and a block in 11 minutes.
Nairn had plenty of minutes in his farewell game due to Cassius Winston’s early foul trouble, putting up three rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes.
Nairn, one the team’s captains alongside Bridges and an outspoken leader, is having a lasting impact on his teammates on and off the court.
“I’ve been really really excited about what Cassius (Winston) has learned from him,” Izzo said. “He’s starting to develop some of those same comradery, some of those same togetherness characteristics that Tum has.”
Izzo went on to say, “That’s what Tum is, he’s infectious.”
According to Bridges, Nairn was one of the factors in his decision to stay another season at Michigan State.
“Being under Tum Tum, him being the captain, he was always going to push me everyday, off the court and on the court, just to be a better person and better basketball player,” Bridges said. “So I knew coming back was going to be great for me.”
Izzo also had high praises for sophomore Miles Bridges, who is also noted as one of the team’s leaders.
“I think it’s amazing the humility that kid has, and Tum has, and that kind of branches out to our whole team,” Izzo said. “I think they are role models. I think they are kids that people should look up to, and that’s pretty awesome.”
But the trio of seniors are likely not the only ones playing their last game at the Breslin Center. Sophomore Miles Bridges and freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. are expected to declare for the NBA Draft in June as they are both projected lottery picks.
“Obviously the time will come after the season where I will have to think about it, but right now I’m just happy for them,” Jackson said.
Bridges finished the night with an impressive stat line, posting 19 points, five rebounds and a couple of assists.
Jackson came off the bench to score eight points along with recording four rebounds and five blocks. Jackson now has 100 blocks on the season.
Though both are expected to go pro next season, winning in March still remains their top priority for the time being.
“We’ve got a lot of basketball left,” Bridges said. “We’re just trying to win it right now.”
With the Spartans’ 81-61 win over the Fighting Illini, they have won a share of the Big Ten championship. As part of the postgame ceremony honoring the three seniors, Bridges and Nairn held up the trophy in front of a packed Breslin Center.
“It was great,” Bridges said. “It was emotional because we can send the seniors out right. I’m happy that we can do that for them and for the fans.”
But for Bridges, the Big Ten trophy is a piece of his legacy at Michigan State.
“If you talk about best players, you have to have trophies,” Bridges said.
The Spartans have one more game left in the regular season before they head out to Madison Square Garden for the Big Ten tournament. Their final game will be played against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center on Sunday, Feb. 25. Tip off is at 1 p.m. E.T. A win there would make for an outright Big Ten regular season championship, their first since 2009.