Columbus, Ohio — Joey Hauser was focused on getting his shoes back on his feet and tying them while sitting on the baseline Sunday night when a voice caught him off guard:
Thousands of fans chant his name inside the Nationwide Arena with 10 seconds left on the clock.
He just didn’t have time to think about those cheers at the time: The Michigan State forward laced his boots, tucked the ball in and stayed focused and composed as Michigan State finished with a 69-60 win over Marquette to advance to the Sweet 16.
After that, everything hit him.
“I didn’t even know what to do,” Hauser said. “I couldn’t control it. As soon as I got off the field, I kind of fell apart. It’s been a long ride, and to hear my name chanted in an arena like that, you really don’t know what to say.”
Hauser’s long journey thus far has been well documented: a transfer, a year’s absence, two tough seasons of shooting troubles and shaky confidence, and now a senior senior season that has seen him play confidently and carefree as a scorer. Michigan State.
That road led him to the Nationwide Arena on Sunday night and it was the game that was meaningful to him on so many levels.
Hauser had a chance to advance deeper into the NCAA Tournament than ever before, after he and Michigan State folded in the second round of last year’s event.
To do that, he had to go through his old team: Marquette, from where he moved in 2019 after playing one season there.
Hauser downplayed the game beforehand, noting that Marquette’s entire roster and coaching staff had changed in the nearly four years since he left.
But Golden Eagles fans haven’t forgotten him.
When Hauser was presented with the starting lineup before Sunday’s game, he heard a chorus of boos from Marquette’s fans in attendance.
Hauser showed no reaction to the reception. But his teammates at Michigan State have taken notice.
“We were all happy for Joey, happy for Joey, happy to hear the cheers, because they started booing,” Spartans guard AJ Hoggard said.
After that gruff welcome, Hauser came away and scored a double-double, with 14 points and 10 rebounds, as Michigan State crashed out of No. 2 seed and earned its first Sweet 16 since 2019.
This included a critical three-pointer with 4:23 left that put Michigan State ahead by five, then a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left to finish the 7-for-7 performance on the line. He finished three points shy of 1,000 for his career at Michigan State.
“I think everyone here, it doesn’t have to be anything else, we’re just happy for him, because we’re happy he chose to play with us and he’s in that position,” Spartans forward Malik Hall said.
Now, Hauser will have a chance to reach that milestone during Thursday’s Sweet 16 game against Kansas State. He will do so after one of the most emotional games of his career.
“It’s so amusing to hear people cheer, when two years ago people weren’t cheering,” said Spartans coach Tom Izzo. “And I think he deserves every bit of it.”
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