TAMPA, Fla. -- Michigan State senior point guard Kalin Lucas sat at the postgame press conference podium with tears in his eyes, too overcome with emotion to speak. He had just ended a remarkable four-year run with the Spartans, his name etched in almost every Michigan State record book, with what was one of the worst games in his storied career.
Lucas, the Spartans' fifth all-time leading scorer, was held without a field goal until 7:45 remained and finished with 11 points. He then ended the game with a turnover as UCLA dashed Michigan State's hopes with a 78-76 victory in the second round of the men's NCAA tournament on Thursday night, almost too fitting in a year characterized by struggles for the Spartans.
After rupturing his Achilles tendon in a second-round NCAA tournament game in 2010, the three-time All-Big Ten performer had worked so hard to come back for his senior season and hoped to lead his team to its third straight Final Four. But it was not meant to be. Though Lucas did not end his career with a win, he left a legacy not only as one of the all-time great players in Big Ten and Michigan State history but also as a great teammate.
"It's been great to play with him," junior Draymond Green said after the loss in which the third-team All-Big Ten forward had a triple-double (23 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists). "He's made me a better player. The last couple years a lot of people have labeled me as a winner, but along with that winning, he's done a lot of it for me just helping me out and pulling this team along. And like I said to him in the locker room, I want to thank him for all the great times he gave me here as a player."
Green lamented not just the loss of a trusted teammate, but a missed milestone for his friend. "I'm a big fan of my guys reaching milestones, and the loss hurts me, but I think I'm kind of hurting because he came up four points short of 2,000. And for everything he did for this program ... I get to come back for another year so I can be sad about the loss later. I think I'm hurting more about him not getting the four points."
Lucas reflected on his career following the loss: "I think I had a great four years here. I had a great coach that pushed me every day at practice, and I had great teammates that pushed me every day at practice, as well. The loss hurts, but at the same time these four years have been great."