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March 17, 2012
Just Like Magic
Draymond Green got on the phone earlier this week with a former Michigan State star.COLUMBUS, Ohio -
Magic Johnson must have told Green to play just like him.
Green recorded his second career NCAA tournament triple-double -- the first player to do it since Johnson -- and Derrick Nix added 18 points as top-seeded Michigan State fought off the upset bug that took down two No. 2 seeds, advancing in the West Regional with an 89-67 win over LIU Brooklyn on Friday night.
On a freaky Friday of upsets, Michigan State wasn't going down.
Green wouldn't stand for it.
"The kid's a great player," LIU coach Jim Ferry said. "I thought he was a great player going in on tape. He's a great player live. He's going to have a very long career in front of him. He's just a fantastic basketball player."
The Spartans (28-7) finally put away the bothersome No. 16 Blackbirds (25-9) with a 14-4 run midway through the second half. Michigan State outscored LIU 47-30 after halftime to set up a third-round game with Saint Louis on Sunday.
Green had 24 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and no turnovers in 35 minutes. He joined Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only players in history to have more than one triple-double in the tournament.
Afterward, Green showed typical humility in downplaying his accomplishment. His previous triple-double came in last year's tournament loss to UCLA.
"At the end of the day I'd much rather have a win than a triple double, because when you look at those record books it's going to say Draymond Green stats triple double and then it's going to say the score of the game," he said. "And the last one was a loss and this one was a win. So it don't really matter.
"It's just about getting wins this time of year, and I'm just happy we're able to do that."
Green didn't get into any specifics about his conversation with Johnson. The Hall of Famer was talking with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who put Green on the phone.
"I don't know what he said to him, but it might have been something good," Izzo said. "I might have to call him back. I'm proud of Day Day (Green's nickname). I'm pleased for him. Happy for him. And yet he's got a lot of basketball to go."
The Spartans' 89 points are the most scored in the tournament so far.
Jamal Olasewere scored 17 and Julian Boyd and C.J. Garner had 15 apiece for LIU, trying to make history by bringing down a No. 1 on the same day No. 2 seeds Missouri and Duke were beaten.
Pushed for 30 minutes by LIU, the Spartans showed down the stretch why some experts are picking Izzo and his squad to make another Final Four appearance.
Green was the difference, and after he was pulled in the final minutes, he slapped hands with Michigan State's muscular Spartan mascot. About the only thing he didn't do was lead the band.
"That's tremendous for a player like Draymond to get stats like that and still be able to get other players involved," Spartans center Adreian Payne said. "It's a blessing to have someone like that on our team."
Although its roster is comprised of players from across the country, LIU Brooklyn is a bonafide New York team with the city's toughness, street smarts and attitude.
Ferry was sure his team wouldn't back down from the Big Ten big boys.
He was right. But an upset?
Still, Izzo was impressed with the Blackbirds.
"I really like that team," he said. "I thought they were really, really good."
Up by nine in the second half, Michigan State stretched its lead to 13 when Nix, generously listed at 270 pounds, scored underneath and Green, unable to pound it inside to his teammate, knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 60-47. Boyd countered with a 3 for LIU, but after a timeout, Michigan State ripped off six in a row, opening a 66-50 lead on Wood's layup.
Moments later, Green hit another 3 and the amiable senior skipped back on defense, flapping his arms to encourage Michigan State's fans to cheer.
He then fed Nix for an alley-oop dunk and when Wood buried a 3-pointer to make it 74-54, fans began pouring to the exits of Nationwide Arena.
Michigan State joined the other No. 1s -- Syracuse, Kentucky and North Carolina -- in advancing. Top seeds are now 112-0 against No. 16s.
As the teams left the floor at halftime with Michigan State ahead just 42-37, a fan in the LIU cheering section held up a hand-painted sign that read: "Upset Alert!"
In the locker room, Izzo told his team, "You're in trouble."
As it turned out, there was no need to worry.
Green made sure the Spartans would play again.
Click below for a post-game interview with Green who shares his thoughts on both the good and bad from Michigan State's win over Long Island University Brooklyn and his second career triple double in NCAA Tournament Play.
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