Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals
Sitting courtside with my friend Jack Ebling before the game I predicted MSU to win this game by 12. I thought they would pull away in the second half, but not dominate, humiliate and own the Hawkeyes like they did.
In fairness to the Hawks I don’t know what B1G team or what team nationally could have stopped them today. They were on fire. Izzo said of his Spartans effort and game, “I thought Draymond didn’t have one of his better games, even though his stats did.
You know, I thought actually, I thought we started off kind of sluggish and weren’t very good defensively early. And then these two guys picked it up. I thought they both played outstanding. I thought we got a lot of Adreian Payne early, and after that 20-20, I thought we really started checking better.
But what did impress me today was our passing and our unselfishness for three-fourths of that game. I thought it reared its ugly head a little bit at the end, but I thought we were very unselfish. And we had to get a lot of guys in, guys that haven’t played because of the foul trouble that he had. (Austin) Thornton was sick again and he was struggling and both (Derrick) Nix and Payne were in foul trouble.
So all of a sudden, (Russell) Byrd comes in and he makes his shot, and, you know, we got some minutes for him. We got (Travis) Trice a few more minutes, which I was amazed that he was able to play after the ankle thing again on Wednesday. And yet a lot of work to do defensively now. But offensively, we really moved the ball and played pretty well.”
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery lead his Hawkeyes into the proverbial Spartan buzz saw and they were handed their lunch. Neither his coaching acumen or his players for that matter belonged on the court with the Spartans today and he said of them, “We lost to a very good team today, a very good team who played really hard. I thought at the start of the game we came out the right way. I thought we had a good beginning, and then it got away from us there a little bit, and I thought we fought hard in the second half. But that’s a team that’s going to be playing for a long time.”
When you look back on this game you will of course talk about the amazing play and leadership of Draymond Green, just like you do every game. With all respect to Day Day who is the best player in all of college basketball in my opinion, even with an amazing stat line of 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and one steal and three blocks, he wasn’t the story.
MSU still loses when he plays great and the rests of the team stinks. The story today was Adreian Payne. The youngster who only seems to step up against OSU acted like this game was played on a schoolyard in Columbus. He owned the game and when Day Day went out with his second foul in the first half it was time for the Spartans to separate from the Hawks, and Payne led them.
Izzo has clamored for Payne to grow his game. He wanted him to go beyond athleticism to maturity and communication with his teammates. With roughly 4:30 left in the first half he did just that. He started talking and communicating. I took note of it and asked Izzo about it.
Izzo said of Payne’s communication, “You read my mind. I said is that Adreian or an imposter. And Adreian did a great job. I thought at the end we were trying to play — I have so many new guys now that I gotta get into that rotation. One thing is Adreian playing the floor so I can go bigger if I have to. One is those other guys understanding that sometimes it’s time to build the lead and hold the lead.
All in all, I thought Adreian did a great job early. He blocked some shots, he got some rebounds, but he is communicating better on defense. We made a couple of adjustments on those ball screens right off the bat. First time out, they hit three 3s I think early. He adjusted to it. It was the most focused I’ve seen him, and he’s had — we sat there on the bench before the game, had two big, great practices, and we felt the number one key of the game was transition defense, especially with the bigs because they run so well. And the second one was rebounding because they had rebounded so well against Illinois, and those two things were big for us today.”
Draymond Green was equally impressed with Payne’s fine performance. He said, “It was a great performance for him. I was on the bench yelling at him because he only had one rebound the second half, and that’s another step. We’re trying to get him and Nix to take his rebound better. I think he did a great job tonight. I think I started off really slow and he carried the load for us, and then Keith, so that was pretty big for us.
But we know the potential that Adreian has and the things that he can do. It was just a matter of him going hard every second that he’s on the floor. And today he did that and he came up with some huge rebounds for us, some huge buckets for us. But I think the one thing I was impressed with early is how unselfish he was. He finished the first half with I think 12 and 6, and he was very unselfish passing out of the post, so that was big for us.”
One player who had an amazing game that won’t show up on the stat sheet was Travis Trice. He had nine points, three assists and two rebounds. More importantly having been out with an injured ankle he picked up 24 key minutes and pushed the ball well.
Keith Appling said of his performance, “It’s a lot easier. It gives me a break. I get to come off the bus, I can kind of coach him when I’m on floor. It makes my job a lot easier, posting and playing on the ball. All 30 minutes it hadn’t changed, the other team’s best player.”
Izzo said of Travis Trice’s game today, ”We got (Travis) Trice a few more minutes, which I was amazed that he was able to play after the ankle thing again on Wednesday. And yet a lot of work to do defensively now, but offensively, we really moved the ball and played pretty well.”
Now the Spartans move on to play the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday for a 1:40 PM tilt on CBS. The Spartans have played the Badgers twice this season, winning both games. They won 63-60 in overtime on January 3, 2012 and at the Breslin Center on February 16, 2012 by a score of 69-55.