AN UPSET OF THE MILLENNIUM

Written by Marcus May
8/9/2020

 It’s December 25th 1999, but this Christmas Day was a little different than most for me. On second thought, it was different for everyone, because in a few days the world would be experiencing and moving into a new millennium. Honestly, that was an after thought in my mind. The only present I wanted couldn’t fit under a tree. I had one thing and one thing only on my mind. Beating the Michigan State basketball team!! I physically couldn’t be still for anything leading up to the the big game.
Once I returned to Wright State after winter break the team started to prepare immediately. Walk throughs, film sessions and practices. Our coaches tried to treat this game like all the other games, but we all knew that was total BS. This could be the biggest game in the school’s history. With that said, everyone was a little sharper in practice. The focus was a little different, I loved it!! I live for these types of games. Before I knew it, it was officially game day. While sitting with the team during our Pre-Game meal I couldn’t help but notice the set up and actual meal was a little different. Don’t get me wrong, our pre game meals probably rivaled most major D1 or pro teams programs. That’s because our coach Ed Schilling had coached in the NBA and was what you would call “ A players Coach”. He took care of the players. Therefore the meal was unreal that day. No one was talking. I still don’t know if the players or coaches were quiet because in a few hours we play the #8 team in the Country, or the food was just that good. I’m guessing the food was just that good.

Well, let’s get this show on the road. I’m sitting at my locker talking with my teammates, honestly I’m thinking to myself I’m glad it’s a home game for us. Most times mid majors find themselves playing at neutral sites or at the power house’s home gym. But not today!!! We are home in the good ole Nutter Center. Another side bar, the Nutter Central arena was a major selling point that got me to commit to WSU. Back  to the game, Coach Schilling walks into the locker room to deliver his pre-game speech. I see him talking but I can’t focus. I can’t wait to get on the floor. All I hear is start in the 1-3-1 zone and trust it.. Okay got it. Michigan State usually has great teams. Meaning they beat you collectively not individually. I’m guessing that’s where Tom Izzo comes in to play. Morris Peterson was the star along with a young athletic kid named Jason Richardson, but the team as a whole was the bigger problem. Deep down, I’m just thinking they will have to beat us because we are not laying down just cause they are Michigan State. We take the court and the arena is packed with over 11,000 people. It’s a beautiful site. We can‘t hear each other doing warm ups, but we knew each other’s thoughts. There’s a no dunking rule during warm ups, but once someone dunked everyone started dunking. It turned into a dunk off, until a ref made his way to our half of the court. We were flying high and ready to play at this point.

 
 

Marcus May with then MSU assistant coach Tom Crean

 

The final horn blows. Tip off is underway. The first couple possessions we were too excited on offense and trying to force the issue and send an early message. MSU was doing the same, rushing and taking bad shots. Mid way through the first half our offense settles and goes on a run. Michigan State continues to struggle. They take several rushed 3 point shots. Most of those by Morris Peterson, he’s playing one of his worse collegiate games. I would like to think our 1-3-1 zone is the reason, but I’m just hoping it continues. Our quick changes in defensive schemes confuse them. We moved in and out of the zone with precision. I played at the top of the zone most times applying pressure and chasing the ball. We talked and communicated every possession. “Watch Morris he’s running baseline”. I’m just hoping we don’t get tired. My good friend and teammate Kevin Melson is having a great game. He’s attacking every chance he gets. Halftime couldn’t have come sooner. We get into the locker room and were down only a few points, but there’s no celebration. Just a calm demeanor throughout the locker room. We are breathing heavy and trying to relax. We are ready for the 2nd half to start. We head back out to the floor. The crowd stands once we take the floor. Back to work, we get a few baskets early inside the paint. Morris is still off. He goes 0-5 from the 3 point line, but his MSU teammate AJ Granger is doing everything he can to lift his team. We are simply rolling. I hit a couple 3s and Kevin is still in attack mode. Kevin had 16pts and I had 14pts for the game. It’s coming down to the wire and we have the lead. We just need to hold on, we got this!! The crowd has taken their excitement to another level. Could this really happen, 4 more minutes and the greatest upset in Wright State history will be etched in stone. Those last few minutes go by in a flash with both teams trading baskets. At this point, we are holding onto a two point lead with 13 seconds left in the game. We inbound the ball as they apply pressure. I catch the ball, then I get fouled immediately. If I hit both free throws we will most likely win the game by creating a two possession game. If I miss they will have plenty of time to get a shot off to tie or win the game. It goes without saying, but these were the biggest free throw shots in my career. I get the ball from the ref, take a deep breath and move into my routine.  I shoot the first free throw and make it. Now the next one will seal the game. I’m thinking one more just like the last one. The arena is silent. I shoot, SWISH we are up 4 points 53-49. MSU sprints down court to get a quick shot and they miss. We WIN the game and the crowd rushed the floor within seconds, it was total chaos, but in the most awesome and chaotic way possible. Teammates are looking for each other through the fans and energetic crowd. I’m sprinting to find the game ball. Once I get the game ball I’m trying to locate the other team to shake their hands but it’s standing room only at this point and both team abort that idea. Ball securely under my arm I head to the locker room with a security escort. We all finally make it to the locker room some faster than others and the celebration continues. It was December 30th, 1999 and Wright State just upset Michigan State. This was the greatest gift ever. I will never forget that day!!! As it turns out Michigan State actually won the NCAA National Championship that year, luckily they didn’t face us again!!!

 
 
 
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