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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Iowa guard Anthony Clemmons was neither cheered nor booed as he was introduced as the opponent to his hometown fans one final time in his college basketball career.
Clemmons, a Lansing Sexton High School graduate, was stoic and in control, neither excited nor disappointed. But his outward emotions belied the excitement he had in facing Michigan State at the Breslin Center. But when the final horn sounded and his Hawkeyes blasted the Spartans 76-59, Clemmons couldn’t contain himself.
He went through postgame handshakes and was embraced by all. Clemmons’ two best friends and former high school teammates Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes play for the Spartans. Clemmons works out at Michigan State during the summer. He knows everyone on a nickname basis and they all talked smack on the court, which made Thursday night’s victory so sweet for the Iowa senior.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Clemmons said. “This is a moment I’ve been waiting on for my entire life, since I’ve been in college.
“I felt like I was back in my state championship days. There were a lot of people rooting for me. There were a lot of people rooting against me. At those types of moments, you’ve got to really flush everything and stick in the group with your guys and go to war with the guys that are behind you, the ones with Iowa on their jersey.”
Clemmons was a major reason why Iowa won in East Lansing for the first time since 1993. He ran the point for most of the first half with Mike Gesell in foul trouble. Clemmons scored 13 points in 31 minutes. He played lockdown defense on Forbes, who scored just two points. It was his finest hour as a Hawkeye.
“His ability to play the point with Mike out for 15, 16 minutes was amazing,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “I almost didn’t take him out at all, but I felt like I needed to. But to engineer a 22-point lead the way he did and mix some scoring and phenomenal defense, I think, speaks to his character.”
“I give Clemmons credit again,” said Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo. “Not a very good shooter, hit two big 3s in the first half.”
Izzo walked up to Clemmons after the game and said, ‘You deserve it.’ That meant a lot to Clemmons, who grew up a Spartans fan.
“Who knew that I’d be going against Michigan State when I was younger?” Clemmons said. “I didn’t know, but I did. And I got the ‘W.’”
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