On Saturday, two teams entered Madison Square Garden with somewhat similar goals.
The Michigan State Spartans (19-3, 8-1 Big Ten) had see-sawed between a devastating loss to in-state rival Michigan and a well planned-out win over Iowa away from home to follow that up. Their goal was to quell the critics and win a seemingly easy battle against a Georgetown team that had lost five straight.
The Hoyas (12-9, 3-6 Big East), on the other hand were unranked, on a terrible losing streak, and about to face a top ten-ranked team on basketball's biggest stage; they had all the same to prove and then some. In the end, that sense of abandon and fearless attitude was what drove Georgetown's head coach John Thompson to win no matter what.
"You lose a couple in a row and life is hard. It's hell," Thompson said Saturday after the Hoyas snapped their five-game skid with an unexpected 64-60 win over MSU. "It's a good win and I would feel that way regardless of the opponent the way we've been going."
Though Thompson felt happy to earn a win regardless, the fact that it came against the top ten Spartans in the middle of New York City had to have been the feather in his whole team's proverbial cap.
The key component for the Hoyas' stunning win was in their tenacity and incredible toughness. With Michigan State missing players left and right due to injury, including the absence of Adreian Payne for a seventh-straight game, the Spartans were no match for a physically superior Georgetown teams.
"You're not going to beat Michigan State or any team in the Big East if you aren't physically tough," Thompson said. "You need to be tough enough to make the hustle plays, run down the loose balls, run down the long rebounds and have communication on defense."
As for Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, the loss has to come as a shock. But in that shock, the bare facts stand out as clear as day: If you don't play as good as the other team, you will lose. This is a concept that Izzo made no bones about misunderstanding when it came to his team's tough loss.
"It's disappointing but not upsetting," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "They took it right at us. I feel we didn't play with the toughness we needed. They're a good team, I don't care what their record is. They played harder than us. They deserved to win and we got what we deserved."
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.