Two days before the new millennium, Michigan State was a 23-point favorite at Wright State, which was off to a 2-8 start.
But the Raiders stunned the eighth-ranked Spartans — the eventual national champions — 53-49 on Dec. 30, 1999.
The Raiders hit eight consecutive free throws during the final 3:15, including the clinching two by Marcus May with 13 seconds remaining.
The Raiders took the lead for good on two free throws by Kevin Melson with 1:55 left.
“This was a win-win situation,” May said. “We were 23-point underdogs.”
Melson led the Raiders with 16 points, May had 14 and Thomas Hope had 10 rebounds. The Raiders held Michigan State to a season-low point total and 33% shooting (18 of 55).
“The Spartans arrived ranked No. 8 in the country and exited with a case of terminal embarrassment,” wrote Sean McClelland of the Dayton Daily News. “OK, maybe the embarrassment wasn’t all that terminal. They did win the national championship that season once point guard Mateen Cleaves and forward Andre Hutson, from Trotwood-Madison, got healthy.”
The Spartans might have been depleted, but it was the first time Wright State beat a ranked opponent since a 71-70 victory over No. 25 Xavier in the 1995 Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) tournament quarterfinals.
The Raiders also won the admiration of Spartans head coach Tom Izzo. “We were totally outplayed from start to finish,” he said. “There is no question the better team won tonight.
“Great teams find a way to win when they’re not playing well and we didn’t do that.”
But Wright State did in the sports moment judged the greatest in school history. It was all the more impressive after the Raiders lost the following season at No. 1 Michigan State, 88-61.
“Later down the road,” Melson said, “you can say you beat one of the best teams in the country.”
On the cover: Wright State’s Joe Bills celebrates the Raiders’ victory over Michigan State on Dec. 30, 1999. (Courtesy Wright State Raiders via Twitter)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Western Kentucky and Western Michigan
• Tuesday: William & Mary and Winthrop
• Wednesday: Wofford and Wright State
• Thursday: Yale and Zips (Akron)
• Friday: The Judge