Michigan State Spartans Survive Heavyweight Fight with the Indiana Hoosiers to Open Big Ten Play 80-65
This game was a seesaw battle that had the Michigan State Spartans come out on fire and get a commanding 18-point lead. Then we watched Indiana battle back to take a nine point lead and for MSU to come off of the matt exhausted and tired to win by 15. What a swing. What a game and the MVP never touched the court.
The Izzzone has come under sharp scrutiny from Tom Izzo on down for their lack of emotion; spirit, attendance at games and an amazing amount of texting while the Spartans are playing. The alumni were back in town and truly when MSU was at their lowest point they willed the Spartans back.
If you every saw Rocky Four, when Balboa was being beaten by Ivan Drago and the Russians started to chant Rock-Y it was like that tonight. Down nine, seemingly out of gas the Izzone erupted and the Spartans responded.
MSU assistant coach Dane Fife, a Hoosier ICON said of the crowd, “It was as good as I have ever heard it here and that was the ALUMNI Izzone.” I put the emphasis as Fife did.
Freshman point guard Travis Trice was mesmerized by the Spartan faithful. “Brandon Wood got that dunk and I couldn’t hear nothing for the next two possessions. Did you feel it? I mean the floor was shaking, I ain’t ever seen, felt or heard anything like that.”
Derrick Nix went further saying, “The crowd got us going. They by far were the best I ever heard. I don’t think you could not respond too them. They brung it.”
Tom Izzo during the game applauded the alumni Izzone and said afterwards that; “Our crowd was worth a lot of points tonight.”
But Izzo knew his team was down. They were on the matt and they were tired. He said as much when he declared, “Couple of my freshman went brain dead…second half we looked like we were out of gas…I thought our whole team looked tired tonight.” I agree and Tweeted as much.
He went on to say, ” I didn’t feel we played great. We had stretches, but great teams don’t do that, we have to have consistency…I feel fortunate we won the game tonight.
Former Michigan State superstar assistant and current IU head coach Tom Crean said of the game, “It was for us a lot of tough lessons in a tough atmosphere against a good team… Their confidence went up when our defense went down… Just an absolute learning process, this league is, this time of year is, Will get better.”
The Spartans main emphasis was stopping super freshman center star Cody Zeller of the Hoosiers. They held him scoreless in the first, (He ended the game with four points and four rebounds) and essentially made him a non-factor for the entire game.
Credit that to Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne. They smothered him. Derrick Nix said after the game that the physicality of he and Payne played big in that. He said, “That played big tonight…we got in his head. I think me and Adreian got in his head and just stopped him.”
Assistant coach Mike Garland didn’t necessarily think it was getting into Zeller’s head that helped his two young bigs. He told me, “I don’t think they maybe were in his head, but they were on his body.” I would agree with Coach Garland’s analysis.
Tm Crean thought that the Spartans physicality was the key with his young star. He addressed it by saying; “Very physical game…not getting to the foul line is a big deal for us. Cody (Zeller) saw what this league is about when you go against some physical five men.”
Izzo had high praise for Nix. He said, “I was really happy with Nix. Stayed her for Christmas, went home one day to make sure he didn’t gain any weight. That was his decision and I am glad it paid off for him.”
Izzo was so pleased that after the game he grabbed Nix and took him to the post game TV interview. A first for Nix who said about the experience, “I am a pretty good talker and that was amazing.”
Travis Trice sure was impressed with the play of Nix. “Derrick had an amazing game for us with all of his play. He was a big reason we won.”
When Tom Crean alluded to the intensity of Big Ten play he was right. We talked about it earlier in the week when we mentioned about the increase in intensity now that conference play is here. Trice, a true freshman said of that increase in emotion and energy, “You could feel it. Everything was nuts and intensified. They came out to play. They knew exactly what our plays were. We knew theirs. It wasn’t like the pre season where you don’t know the other teams. These games (Big Ten) are just about who wants it more. It is definitely a different game.”
Nix ended the game with 14 points and five rebounds. Payne added eight points. Brandon Wood had 14 and Draymond added 11 points and seven rebounds. The Spartans won the turnover battle staying in single digits (9) to Indiana’s 13. The Spartans also had 14 assists on 29 buckets and out rebounded IU 33-31.
The Spartans next two contests are both in the Big Ten and both are on the road. They play at Nebraska on December 31, and they head to Madison to take on the Badgers on January third. They don’t come home until after those two stints on the road until January 10 when they host Iowa.
So now that his team has improved to 12-2, having won 12 in a row and starting league play at 1-0, what does Izzo think now? “I think our ceiling is high.” He’s right.