Michigan State's Joey Hauser looks to continue run after family's first March Madness win

Joey Hauser was instrumental in Michigan State's first-round win over Davidson Friday night. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Stephanie Hauser stood in one of the front rows of Bon Secours Wellness Arena late Friday, clapping, cheering and yelling as loud as she could. For years, she and her husband, Dave, have been through this.

It's a journey the Hausers couldn't have expected when their son, Sam, committed to Marquette in 2015 and Joey followed him there two years later. No family does when their kids commit to a college. They figure they will stay there and finish. Have success. Maybe, if you're lucky, leave early for the NBA.

Sam and Joey didn't stay -- and didn't go pro early either. They shocked Marquette fans and college basketball observers by announcing their departure from what was considered a potential Final Four team just days after Golden Eagles' top scorer Markus Howard (top 10 in the country in shots taken in 2018-19 and eventually the school's all-time leading scorer) announced he was returning for his senior year.

Instead, the Hausers separated -- Sam leaving for Virginia and Joey for Michigan State in 2019. Between the two of them, they'd accomplished a lot. Won Big East weekly honors and, for Sam, a first-team All-ACC nod last year.

But one thing eluded them in four previous attempts, including one taken together with Marquette in 2019: An NCAA tournament win.

Joey, now a redshirt senior, knew this going into the tournament. Against Davidson on Friday night, he had one of the best games of his college career, tying a career high with 27 points. At times, he looked like the best player on the floor, his family screaming from the stands. And in those final seconds, with Michigan State clinging to a one-point lead, they understood what it would mean.

The Spartans won 74-73. And Stephanie was a bit hoarse by the end.

"They just both are so fortunate to have the experiences they had first at Marquette and then Sam with coach [Tony] Bennett and Joey with coach [Tom] Izzo," Stephanie told ESPN from the stands moments after Friday's win. "Honestly, they both feel so blessed to have the opportunities that they have had, it's amazing.

"It's just, I mean, the win is incredible, of course. People don't realize sometimes that it's just so much more than just the game."

In the moment, the Hausers downplayed the significance of the family's first NCAA basketball win -- their sister, Nicki, had a NCAA Division II tournament volleyball win in 2017 at Southern Connecticut State -- but it wasn't far from their minds.

Joey thought about it again the past few weeks. It came up last summer in Stevens Point, Wisconsin -- both in the backyard and on the family boat on Lake Du Bay, too.

"The kids are all back, kind of [vying for] bragging rights," Dave Hauser said. "Nicki's held those bragging rights for a long time now and now Joey joins the win group at the tournament level.

"And Sam, Sam's out. So it's just kind of a fun bragging rights thing that comes up every once in a while."

So Joey was cognizant of the family history -- and that Sam, now a reserve on a two-way contract with the Boston Celtics -- would not have a chance to win a tournament game ever again. Which matters, because even as Joey downplayed the win, he took a small dig at his brother he'll be able to hold forever.

"But I got one win," Joey said about 15 minutes after Friday's win. "And he doesn't. So I'll probably give him a call about that."

At that particular moment, Sam Hauser was in the middle of the Celtics' game against Sacramento. As Nicki, Stephanie and Dave rode Michigan State's team bus for family back to the team hotel in Greenville, they pulled up NBA Game Pass. Turned on the fourth quarter, where Boston was blowing out the Kings. And with 3:25 left, Sam Hauser checked into the game.

Grabbed a rebound a minute later. Hit a 3-pointer a minute after that. And what started as a day full of unknowns became an hour full of basketball happiness and promise for the Hausers.

In Sacramento, Sam Hauser was on the bench getting occasional updates from an equipment manager about the score. But not about his brother's play.

When he found out Michigan State won, he saw the box score. Saw Joey's game.

"It caught me by surprise," Sam said.

On the bus, he caught highlights. Texted him congratulations. Later, they spoke. When they did -- Joey invoked his first of life-long bragging rights. And Sam told him how he felt.

"He just told me how proud he's been of me," Joey told ESPN on Saturday. "Because he's always telling me, shoot the ball when you're open, be aggressive, be who you are and it's kind of been an up-and-down year doing that so yesterday I was really able to do that."

It had been an inconsistent season for Hauser, averaging 6.7 points on 43.1% shooting in 21.7 minutes per game. He wasn't shooting as much. But Friday night, he had as much confidence as ever.

When the Hausers reached the team hotel, they saw Joey for the first time since he won. All the faith they had in Michigan State's Izzo -- and Izzo had in Joey -- manifested in the NCAA tournament. They could see it in Joey's smile -- the biggest one Nicki had seen on her brother since a boat excursion last summer.

It was a mini-reunion of his journey -- minus Sam. Hauser's high school coach, Scott Anderson, was there with Joey's former high school teammates and friends. "Something," Hauser said. "Felt like it was clicking right."

They visited briefly, but there's still business. Hauser has another game to play -- against Duke on Sunday to try to extend his career and give him forever NCAA tournament win bragging rights in the Hauser family.

The family celebration was short. Hauser had meetings to attend and sleep after those. But nothing in basketball is simple with the Hausers. The Wisconsin state basketball tournament is this weekend -- and Stephanie is the executive director. Six years and one day earlier from Joey's first NCAA tournament win in Greenville, some of the Hausers had been in Greenville -- it's where South Carolina, en route to the Final Four, beat Marquette for Sam's first NCAA tournament loss.

Joey wasn't in Greenville that day. He was in Wisconsin, winning a state semifinal for Stevens Point High on March 17, 2017. The next night, with Sam in attendance after a NCAA loss, Joey won a state title.

At 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Dave made the 90-minute drive from Greenville to Charlotte's Douglas airport so Stephanie could fly to Wisconsin to run the tournament Joey won three times. Saturday presented a lack of sleep and a trip to Top Golf for family remaining in Greenville. On Sunday morning, Dave will drive to Charlotte and pick Stephanie up around 9 a.m. to drive back to Greenville. For the first time in their family's history, there's a second-round NCAA basketball tournament game to attend. It's another ride to a game for a family familiar with them, and for a career for Joey that has been extended for at least one more game.

"A lot of things have happened and I wouldn't take back any of it," Joey said. "I've had a hell of a journey, hell of a run. I've gotten to experience a lot of different teammates, different coaches, different perspectives.

"I've been learning so many things and it's honestly, it's like, it's kind of weird that it's going to end but hopefully it ends with a win and however it ends, I'm going to have no regrets for sure."