In the giddy aftermath of Michigan State's thrilling 85-83 victory over Maryland on Sunday afternoon, TV cameras caught star guard Kalin Lucas with tears in his eyes.
Tears of joy because his Spartans were moving on to the Sweet 16 on Korie Lucious' game-winning shot. And tears of sorrow because he almost certainly won't be healthy enough to help his team try to make a return trip to the Final Four.
Lucas, a two-time all-Big Ten guard, spent the second half with a walking boot on his left foot after landing awkwardly near the baseline on a driving runner late in the first half. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he's "85 percent" sure the injury is a torn Achilles tendon, which would end Lucas' season and deprive Michigan State of its leading scorer in its Sweet 16 matchup with Northern Iowa.
"That poor kid, he was devastated," Izzo said. "It's a shame for him. But it's part of athletics and we're just going to have to move on."
Although Michigan State has a knack for overcoming adversity and winning when nobody expects it to, it's difficult to imagine the Spartans picking up two victories next week without Lucas to get back to the Final Four.
The Spartans fared poorly when Lucas missed time in early February, falling to Wisconsin in the game he sprained his right ankle and then again to Illinois when he sat out the following week.
Without Lucas and fellow injured guard Chris Allen (right foot), Michigan State committed 18 turnovers and coughed up a 15-point lead in the final nine minutes against Maryland before Lucious bailed the Spartans out at the buzzer. Durrell Summers helped pick up the slack with 26 points and Lucious had 13, but Michigan State will miss Lucas' playmaking, leadership and ability to get to the rim.