Commentary

Green overwhelms maize and blue

MSU senior forward backs up his words, whips Wolverines in perhaps final chance

Updated: February 5, 2012, 5:35 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Russell Byrd sat on the bench and saw his captain in the post. He watched his captain post up Michigan guard Zack Novak and make his move once. Twice. Three times.

[+] EnlargeDraymond Green
AP Photo/Al GoldisDraymond Green had as many rebounds (16) as the entire Michigan team.
Michigan State senior Draymond Green made a lot of bold statements after losing to Michigan last month. He guaranteed a win in the return game. He said he would figure out Michigan's defense. He would make big plays and finally have a good game against his biggest rival.

By the third time Green spun around -- this time into the middle of the lane -- to make a turnaround jumper during No. 10 Michigan State's 64-54 win over No. 22 Michigan on Sunday afternoon, Byrd knew Green was about to have a big night.

"We were just like 'Wow,'" said Byrd, a redshirt freshman forward for the Spartans. "By that third turnaround fadeaway, we were like, 'Geez. All right!'"

Green knew what he was saying on the night of Jan. 17, when Michigan beat Michigan State in Ann Arbor, 60-59. He understood the power of his words, that a guarantee not fulfilled could haunt him for longer than the senior's dwindling days at Michigan State.

He wasn't going to let his career end like that. He wasn't going to let Michigan State lose to Michigan for a fourth straight time -- not a chance.

"I remember everything I say," Green said. "I don't just talk out of the side of my neck. I remember every single word I said."

Green didn't want to just beat Michigan. He wanted to annihilate the Wolverines, to completely fluster them and take them out of their game -- and he and his teammates did.

Michigan shot 39.6 percent, 31.8 percent from 3-point range, and Michigan star sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. scored just four points on 1 of 10 shooting.

"I wanted to blow them out," Green said.

The Spartans didn't -- but they were on the verge of it multiple times Sunday afternoon. Every time Michigan attempted to make a run, Michigan State got the ball to Green and he scored or grabbed a big rebound to halt a rally.

Green finished with 14 points -- tied for a game high with Novak. He grabbed 16 rebounds -- as many rebounds as the entire Michigan roster. And he loved every minute of it.

"There aren't many guys on this team that this game means more to than him," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "He has experienced success and failure, and he kind of reminded me of Travis Walton when we hadn't gone to the Final Four.

"Draymond didn't want to go out losing four in a row to them."

Green, though, was lucky to play at all in some ways. He sprained his left knee against Illinois on Tuesday, yet said all week he would play against the Wolverines on Sunday. It meant too much to him not to.

Plus, Green felt healthy enough, and received words of encouragement from Izzo, who told him to stop thinking about it and favoring it after Green did in practice the two days following the injury. By Sunday, Green said the knee felt "phenomenal."

He played like it, too. Both Michigan State and Michigan's players sensed it. Green, who had averaged 6.2 points and five rebounds in his six games against Michigan prior to Sunday, said all along he wanted to have a big game against Michigan.

"It was just another level. He was telling people where to be," redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Morgan said. "You could see that he really wanted it. Probably wanted it more than us today, a little bit."

And in case Michigan State needed any more focus or motivation -- the Spartans said they didn't -- there was this.

Earlier this week, Michigan assistant coach LaVall Jordan tweeted: "In the honor of battle, you always want your opponent at full strength and the stronger the adversary, the more valiant the victor must be."

On Sunday, that message, along with a response, hung in every Michigan State player's locker except Green's. It explained what Jordan meant with the tweet -- or how the Spartans took it -- saying they wanted Green to be healthy to make a Michigan win "much sweeter."

In green lettering at the bottom of the piece of paper were the final words of their message: "Coach Jordan will receive our response on Sunday at 1 p.m."

He did. All of Michigan did.

"Twitter," Green said. "It can get you sometimes."

Green knows the power of words He wanted revenge. And Green, in possibly his last time playing the Wolverines, got it.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.

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