Izzo excited about anniversary game vs Gators
EAST LANSING - Michigan State loves to commemorate landmark achievements in basketball - and the Spartans will do so once again this season when MSU plays host to Florida on Saturday, Dec. 12.
The game will commemorate the 15th anniversary of Michigan State's 89-76 victory over Florida in 2000 National Championship Game. Michigan State announced the scheduling of the game on Tuesday.
"It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since we played Florida in the National Championship Game," Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said in a statement released by the university. "To be able to mark the 15th anniversary with a game against the Gators is a special opportunity."
This year's MSU-Florida game will add strength to a colorful home schedule for the Spartans.
"Between this game and playing Louisville in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, we are excited to bring some of college basketball's top programs to our home fans this season," Izzo said. "It's part of a continual quest to schedule great non-conference games at Breslin Center for our fans that have been so loyal and give us one of the best home court advantages in the nation."
The new home-and-home with Florida marks the first time the Spartans have had a home-and-home series with the Gators since the 2000-01 season, the year after the National Championship meeting. The home team won each of those games, including a rousing rematch of the National Championship game in December of 2000 at the Breslin Center. In that game, Florida Gators guard Teddy Dupay was roundly booed by MSU fans, as a nine-month-old reaction to Dupay's collision with Mateen Cleaves the previous March which left Cleaves with a severely sprained ankle. The Spartans won the rematch, Florida's most recent trip to Breslin, 99-83 with freshman Zach Randolph scoring 27 points.
This game will mark the second time Michigan State has played host to a game or set of games to commemorate a Spartan National Championship. In November of 2003, Michigan State played host to the University of Pennsylvania and DePaul University in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the 1979 Final Four. Those games were part of the Spartan Classic, with DePaul defeating Indiana State in the semifinals. Those four teams participated in the '79 Final Four, which resulted in Michigan State's first National Championship - a 75-64 victory over Larry Bird and Indiana State.
Also, in December of 2012, Michigan State commemorated the 50th anniversary of The Game of Change, celebrating Mississippi State's decision in 1963 to go against an injunction issued by the governor of Mississippi to try to prevent the Bulldogs from playing against Loyola, a team with African-American players. MSU commemorated that event with a special game at Jenison Field against Tuskegee University.
Michigan State will play a return game at Florida during the 2017-18 season on a date to be determined.
The all-time series between Michigan State and Florida is tied 3-3. Florida won the last meeting, 77-74, on November 27, 2009, in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The 2015-16 Spartans feature eight returners that started at least one game last season for a squad that advanced to the 2015 Final Four. Denzel Valentine earned third-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior in 2014-15, and is the team's leading returning scorer at 14.5 points per game.