How do you summarize a game that is unprecedented? How do you briefly describe what it's like to witness a tipoff that is surrounded by open waters and troops by the thousands? How can you recap a game that is so much more than just a game?
This was a setting unlike any other with a large portion of the 8,000 plus in attendance being described as the "greatest team in America". A team that was not clad in Carolina blue or Spartan green, but a team that fights for something more than a trip to the Final Four. A team that is always fighting for the red, white and blue and never has an off season. A team that cheered on the Michigan State Spartans and the North Carolina Tar Heels from temporary stands atop the USS Carl Vinson.
North Carolina claimed the victory 67-55 on the 100,000-ton floating airport, with the President and the First Lady of the United States sitting on the first row at center court. 127 college basketball games played throughout the country Friday night and only one took place on an aircraft carrier with the Commander in Chief who was, literally, front and center.
For the game, Michigan State shot for an unimpressive 30.6% with the Heels shooting 47%, which could leave some wondering how the final score was so close. There are not many teams that pull down more boards than the squad in the light blue, but the Spartans outrebounded the Tar Heels 49-34, with 16 more offensive rebounds. Dan Shulman said it best when he said "Michigan's State's best shot was from a missed one." Both teams shot poorly from behind the arc with Carolina shooting 4 of 12 and Michigan State making only 2 of 20.
The ACC Preseason Player of the year, Harrison Barnes, led all scorers with 17 points, while John Henson had a career-high nine blocked shots. Michigan State's Draymond Green had a career-high 18 rebounds and led the Spartans with 13 points.
When the game and obligatory picture taking was over, players from both teams removed their jerseys, made their way from center court to the Wounded Warriors and proceeded to do something we may never witness again; they gave the jerseys to the first soldier they encountered.
This was a moment of reality. A moment to realize why this trip to San Diego held value outside of basketball game. It was a moment of realizing that those men and women that these players had never met before this week, have fought for them. For us.
And in that moment, James Michael McAdoo at 18 years old, realized that he wanted to go home with more than a victory and a few pictures.
"I gave my jersey to a soldier named Joe," he said. "I told him my name and talked to him for as long as I could. I got the opportunity to sign it for him and make it personal, because it's not just us playing a game. We were able to build some relationships with people who do so much for us.I don't think any of us will.
"Since we've been in San Diego, people from the military are always telling us, 'Thank you,' for an autograph or for a picture. My response is always, 'No, thank you.' These are people who put their lives on the line just so we have the opportunity to do what we do, and to be able to be part of this is something I will never forget."