Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Spartans came into the game tonight wounded from a loss to the Wildcats at Northwestern. They also carried with them a two game losing streak to their archrival Michigan dating back to last season.
After forty minutes of basketball here at the newly renovated and renamed Crisler Center, the Spartans now have a two game losing streak for the season (their second, they started the year 0-2) and a three game losing streak to the Wolverines.
Michigan freshman point guard sensation Trey Burke was the difference in the game for the Wolverines. He had 20 points for Coach Beilein and played some great spurts of defense. MSU head coach Tom Izzo confessed, “He played well.”
I said before the game that the key for an MSU win was playing an inside out game. UM had spent a lot of preparation time concerned about the Spartans using their bigger size advantage down low. MSU came out and didn’t go that way. They struggled and didn’t look good. After the game they were thankful MSU didn’t use that method of attack and the Spartans lamented that they didn’t.
Izzo said, “We did enough things to win this game and enough things to lose this game.” He went on to address the struggles and said, “I didn’t think we went inside enough…I have a pretty good basketball team that I think for the first time didn’t play tough enough.”
Wolverines head coach John Beilein was obviously a little more upbeat, “I don’t think anyone in the house didn’t think that was a great game.” When asked about the impact on recruiting and for the fan base that three wins represents he said, “It’s always been a great rivalry…if you look at the last ten or twelve years it hasn’t been much of a rivalry,” a sign of respect for the MSU dominance prior to his arrival. He even added about Izzo, “They (MSU) have one of the greatest coaches of all time.”
Beilein’s praise for the Spartans continued, “You got to go through Michigan State to win a Big Ten title…It (win) means a lot to us.” So what does this win mean to the program? “It is good for perception. You can have all of these pretty things (millions of dollars in renovations at Crisler) but if you don’t win these games it doesn’t matter. This team is tough.”
The Wolverines were crushed on the boards with the Spartans holding a rebounding advantage of 31-18, but Beilein took exception with people thinking MSU owned the glass because of a lack of effort on the part of the Wolverines. “We were sending three people back at all times on offense (creating a lack of offensive rebounders) trying to stop their transition game…that (rebounding advantage) was not indicative of who won the game.”
Nix was the bright spot for the Spartans. He had thirteen points in 24 minutes and was a big influence in the paint. Beilein said of the play of Nix, “Nix did a good job of jamming inside.”
For the second straight game Izzo was not pleased with his young players. “It was a strange game the whole way. I thought Michigan did some good things. The only freshman I had that played pretty good was (Brandan) Kearney.”
Kearney had six family members in Crisler tonight and said that even though he played well, “It wasn’t enough and all of us could have brought more.”
With Izzo shockingly not choosing to go small, some of my colleagues in the media and I were surprised that when Payne struggled Izzo didn’t use Alex Gauna. He certainly couldn’t have struggled more than Payne and with Izzo not wanting to go small some minutes for him would have made sense. Since he couldn’t have played worse then Payne Izzo had nothing to lose giving a look to his redshirt freshman. He didn’t agree. “I already had four freshman in their…Payne just didn’t play with any toughness…I had enough rookies in.”
Izzo informed us that Nix, “…asked to come out,” when he was questioned about his substitution patterns with Payne. When asked by another reporter in the locker room after the game about wanting to come out Nix responded, “I didn’t ask to come out.”
Izzo also spoke about Keith Appling be exhausted for having played like a warrior for 31 minutes. Appling told the media assembled around him, “I wasn’t tired at all.” Bravado? Perhaps, but I don’t know how he couldn’t have been.
Can Appling take the fact that at least he had given every bit of effort he had, as any consolation? “It doesn’t matter. We lost the game so we go back to the drawing board.”
The Spartans don’t have any time to pout after dropping two straight in Big Ten play. They host Purdue on Saturday at high noon in the Breslin Center.
The one point margin of victory doesn’t matter. Not in a rivalry game. The only thing that matters is that UM won. By one point or a hundred, it is about W’s in this game. Michigan got it and the Spartans had a long bus ride with no moral victories.
A frustrated Izzo ended his press conference by saying, “I am disappointed in me. I think I had a worse night then the team.” The future hall of famer has done a lot of great things as the head coach of Michigan State and he deserves all the praise he gets for the many wins and actions he has done on and off the court. But on this night in Ann Arbor, he is 100% accurate.