NEW YORK — Losing is never fun. Losing to your rival is even more unpleasant.
Losing to your rival twice in the same season is almost unbearable.
Michigan State’s 75-64 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament semifinals not only snapped the nation’s longest winning streak of 13 games, but also meant a handful of Spartans will end their collegiate careers with a bitter taste in their mouths.
The three Spartan seniors, Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr., Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter, probably will not get another chance to avenge their losses to the Wolverines.
“It’s a terrible feeling,” Schilling said of going out 0-2 in his senior year against Michigan. “Losing to them twice in one season … I can’t even put that into words.”
Sophomores Josh Langford and Matt McQuaid empathized with the fact their teammates won’t get another shot at their rivals.
“It hurts to see those guys lose to UM twice,” Langford said after scoring two points in 27 minutes. “With Tum and Gavin and Ben (Carter), their last go-round here. But we still have a chance to send them out the right way with a national championship.”
McQuaid’s nine points in 26 minutes, including two three-pointers down the stretch, weren’t enough to propel the Spartans ahead of the Wolverines.
“It’s not a good feeling, especially for the seniors,” he said. “It doesn’t feel good to leave them with a loss like this in the Big Ten tournament … You want this feeling to sink in so you don’t forget about it. But at the same time we gotta realize we still have basketball to play. So we’ve gotta get better in this time span we have.”
Sophomore Cassius Winston will most likely get more chances to assuage the bitterness of back-to-back losses to Michigan, but understands the frustration.
“I know that hurts,” Winston said of the seniors. “We dropped the ball twice this year. And it’s not just for us. It’s for the school, the people watching … there’s a lot riding on that game, but we’re going to figure out a way to make it up to them.
“I know they feel it. I know that hurts. We dropped the ball twice this year. And it’s not just for us. It’s for the school, the people watching … there’s a lot riding on that game, but we’re going to figure out a way to make it up to them.” –Cassius Winston
But seniors aren’t the only ones who might not get another chance. Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. have been widely speculated to enter the NBA Draft at season’s end. If they choose to do so, and MSU fails to play UM in the NCAA tournament, this was it.
“Right now I’m just mad that we lost,” projected lottery pick Jackson Jr. said. “For the seniors, it’s obviously really tough on them.”
Bridges admitted he would’ve rather played UM than Nebraska just to get revenge.
“We definitely wanted to play Michigan,” he said. “It’s rare that you get a second chance at something, but we didn’t take advantage of it … I don’t know. I’m 1-3 against them and I don’t want to go out with a losing record.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo recognized the outcry after another loss to MSU’s in-state rival, but said he has never panicked over a loss when it’s a rival.
“It’s always a bigger win when it’s playing for a chance to play in the championship game,” Izzo said. “Of course it’s a bigger one. But I’ve got a lot of pride in these guys and what they’ve done and how they’ve worked through some circumstances that had nothing to do with them. I’m really pleased with that and proud of them, to be honest with you. So we’ll get better.”
Coming from humble beginnings in The Bahamas, senior co-captain Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. didn’t sugarcoat his feelings about not being able to go out a winner against Michigan. But he kept the bigger picture in mind, as he so often does.
“It sucks,” Nairn Jr. admitted. “But there’s more important things in life than that. Don’t get me wrong, they’re our rival and it sucks. But there’s people in third world countries that don’t have water. I’m not gonna worry about that.”
The Spartans will have to wait until March 11 to find out where, when and who they’ll face next in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Big Ten tournament final between Michigan and Purdue will take place Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. from Madison Square Garden.