Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Big Ten Semi Finals
Tom Izzo put on a coaching clinic today. He made a very good coach in Bo Ryan look silly. He led the Spartans to a 65-52 thrashing of the Wisconsin Badgers and has his Spartans once again somehow looking at a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a win over the Ohio State here on Sunday. AMAZING.
The Badgers came out on fire, but Tom Izzo made some adjustments, some of which were nothing more then chewing some players a new butt hole, and away the Spartan went on their way to punishing Wisconsin. This win was the third time this season Izzo had beaten the Badgers.
Senior captain Austin Thornton said of Coach Izzo and his adjustments today, “He did a great job. He felt that we were a little bit lethargic there at the beginning and it showed in our play. He’s (Izzo) a spitfire. He got us going. He did his job. And we responded well and glad we came out with the W.”
It was Thornton who took the Izzo coaching and led his team to this win. With just over ten minutes remaining in the first half the Spartans were down 11 (20-9) and Thornton went on a tear. He scored three straight three point plays led with rebounding and defense. He inspired his team to this win.
Outspoken senior captain Draymond Green couldn’t wait after the game to talk about his fellow senior and co-captain Thornton. He said, “when Austin came on to play, he did what a leader does. One of us was down, and I’ve been saying all year, a lot of the credit came towards me, but this team wouldn’t be where it’s at without Austin. I’ve always said we complement each other so well. I’m kind of a guy who’s up front and all that and Austin is just behind the scenes, does the work. And today everybody saw what he was capable of doing when I started off the game struggling very bad. He hit a few big 3s and got us back in the game. And then from there on, we were all able to pick it up.”
The humble senior (Thornton) didn’t want to talk about himself, but was pushed by the media and admitted that this team has to pick it up if Green has an occasional off night. “Well, that’s what makes this team as special as we are, because there’s been times all year long where guys haven’t been playing as well or guys have gone down with injuries or guys have gone down with injuries or guys haven’t played as much, and other guys have stepped up and increased their roles. So that’s why being a part of this group has been a lot of fun. That’s what a team is supposed to do. That’s why we play a team game. And it was just a great job by our guys stepping up and making plays there.”
Green wasn’t done. He had even more to say about Austin Thornton. A young man who at times was very maligned by the fans. Green added, “Well, I’m happy somebody is finally noticing what Austin does. He does a lot. He came up to me, he said, “Hey, you’re a big-time player. Just focus, calm down, and knock the shots down.” And I think I still missed it, but he stuck with me through that time. Austin’s dropping in my head about missing a free throw, he’s right there. He’s, “Okay, you’re gonna make the next one.” I came back hit a few after that. So it just goes to show the type of leadership that he has. Like I been saying all year, so underrated, but then, like I said, I get a lot of credit for it, but this guy does so much for this team and for me personally. He just always makes me keep my head and not necessarily keep my head but keep me positive, because when you’re struggling like I struggled, you tend to get down on yourself. But one thing he says, you rebound the ball, keep going off that, keep working, those shots are going to fall, the free throws are going to fall. So I think he did a great job of helping meout and did a great job of helping himself out as well.”
Izzo as usual found many things he could be frustrated with. Remember that at the height of last years collapse he did say, “I love turmoil,” but this win was important and meant a lot to him. He didn’t brag about his out coaching of Ryan and nor would he, but he was a pleased man. “Bizarre game. Never felt comfortable and yet we played awfully well. Probably 30-some minutes, maybe some of the best basketball we’ve played. Struggled early.
Give them credit. They made some plays, and I didn’t think we did, but some of that was them. And other than that one run they had, I thought we played very, very well. We rebounded the ball pretty well, at least one guy did. We shot the ball extremely well. When you can shoot 50 percent against Wisconsin that says a lot. And the 66 and the 3 is something we haven’t done, but we didn’t take that many of them either.
So I was ecstatic about the win. It’s been 11 years, I think, since we’ve been in this championship game, and I’m going to try to enjoy this part of it.”
Bo Ryan as usual tried to take a laissez faire attitude with the loss. “The three 3s really hurt because there were a couple things that we didn’t do according to our rules. So some teams make you pay more than others if you don’t stick to your reads on defense. People talk about reads on offense. I like to talk about on defense. It’s the same thing. So we missed a couple assignments. We didn’t do what we were — what we talked about in the scouting report as a unit, so we paid.
You know, these guys, that was a hard-fought game yesterday. It was a hard-fought game today. That 13-zip run in the second half showed me something about our guys. I don’t know what we had left. Michigan State obviously had more. But there were some runs in that game where — more so than usual. I mean, as far as – I don’t know how many times Michigan State has had a team score 13 straight, and I don’t know how many times we have, but I don’t know — what was their largest where they scored X number of points in a row? You guys always have those stats somewhere.
What did they get? 12? 15? There was a run they went on, too, from 9 to 18. At least nine straight. Was there more than one run like that? When you’re playing from behind — like Jordan said about shooting percentages sometimes. You’re playing from behind. Are they a little tougher shots, are they — are your feet not set? Are you rushing?
Percentages do tend to go down overall. You might hit one streak like we did, but after that, trying to not get separation the way we normally do or not finish on a shot, you gotta do that. We get it to six and we’re right there, but we didn’t have enough after that.”
The Spartans once again are playing tough team first basketball. With a legendary coach who is demonstrating that there isn’t a coach better in the nation on the court. NONE. There are no MVP awards for semi final games, but if there were he would have earned one today.
The stat line said it all for MSU. They shot 50%, but with smothering defense they held the Badgers to 34%. They tied the Badgers with 29 rebounds, and turnovers as each team had 12. Green and Appling each had five assists, but Green also had seven turnovers.
Draymond Green had a rough night, but still managed to get a double double hauling down 16 rebounds and adding 14 points. Two other Spartans scored double digit points to go along with Green. Keith Appling had 12, Thornton had 12 and Derrick Nix and Brandon Wood each added nine.
Green is now the second leading rebounder in MSU history and tied for second in steals. He is also third in Big Ten Tournament history with 80 rebounds and is only five away from moving into second place, and 15 on Sunday would give the him the lead.
According to all of the bracketologist the Spartans will secure a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a win on Sunday against Ohio State. Draymond Green doesn’t want his team looking at anything other than OSU. He said, “Well, you know, the way this conference has gone, in my opinion, it’s been the best conference in the nation all year.
So you would probably think that there’s a possibility that you are playing for a No. 1 seed whoever wins this next game. I mean, whoever wins that championship game, probably playing for a No. 1 seed. So no, but we would love to get a No. 1 seed because one thing we always talk about, leaving your own legacy, doing something that hasn’t been done here in a long time.
I think the last time we had a No. 1 seed was 2001 or something like that. So it’s just another one of those footprints you can leave in the sand. But at the end of the day, those things will take care of themselves; we just have to focus one game at a time. Tomorrow’s going to be a tough and critical game, regardless of who we’re going to play. Both teams are very good and, like, you can tell how good this league is. For the first time ever, one, two, three, four is in the semifinals, so it’s going to be a tough game regardless. And you can’t go in looking for a No. 1 seed because, if you do, it’s not going to happen. You just gotta go in trying to win a Big Ten championship. One thing we pride ourselves on is hanging banners, and that’ll be another opportunity to hang one.”