By Adam Biggers
Michigan State Spartans senior forward Draymond Green channeled his inner Magic Johnson on Friday night. And the Big Ten Champions are going to need more of Green's "Magic" during March Madness if they are to advance to 2012 Final Four in New Orleans.
Johnson, Green's predecessor at Michigan State, had held the honor of being the only player to post two triple-doubles in the NCAA Tournament since 1979, the year he helped guide the Spartans to the national title.
Green, who already had one under his belt, matched Johnson's pair of triple-doubles with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Spartans' 89-67 second-round NCAA Tournament victory Friday over the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds, winners of the past two NEAC championships. Two more, and Green will tie the great Oscar Roberston, who tallied four during his illustrious career with the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Matching Magic's accomplishment was one thing, but the way Green did it was almost reminiscent of the Spartans legend. Green laced several of his 10 assists with accuracy and style, something for which Magic gained worldwide fame—especially during his days with the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers.
The Blackbirds hung around in the first half and faced a manageable 42-37 deficit at the break. Green's scoring certainly helped the Spartans pull away in the second half, but his assists—some bullet-like, some delivered with a soft touch—were just as valuable to Michigan State.
Senior Austin Thornton nailed a jumper—giving Michigan State a 55-46 lead with 13:43 to play—after being on the receiving end of one of Green's 10 assists. About three minutes later, Derrick Nix put Michigan State up 62-50 after an assist from Green. Nix's basket was one of a few that could be cited as a turning point. After that, the Spartans seemingly took control and wore down the Blackbirds.
Green's desire to end his career at Michigan State on a high note was clear and evident Friday. The senior, who won the Big Ten's Player of the Year honors, knows this is his last shot at an NCAA title. He's already had one more go than most, but that resulted in a NCAA championship loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2009.
Players seldom get two opportunities to cut the nets down. Green doesn't need to be told that. He's played with a win-or-go-home mentality all year. And he appears to just be warming up.